Sanford Seminole, which has been 34-3 for the past three football seasons, showed its depth, speed and skill as it won two Jamboree halves at home Thursday night to wrap up spring training.
But afterward, ‘Noles head coach Eric Lodge stressed to his team that more work needs to be done before his team faces a 2022 schedule that has three current state championship teams and several other perennial forces.
“We have to be mentally sharper. We need to be physically sharper. They’ve got to put in the work,” Lodge said of the players gathered in an end zone after Seminole defeated Lake Brantley 14-0 and Flagler defeated Palm Coast 21-7. “We cannot continue with some of the mistakes we made tonight.”
All-area receiver Darren “Goldie” Lawrence caught two touchdown passes on shots by rising senior quarterback Luke Rucker. Lawrence, who committed to signing with FSU in late March, opened the night’s goal when he came up behind Lake Brantley defenders for a 68-yard TD reception.
Later, Lawrence was inches away from going 75 yards for another TD reception, but it was decided he had stepped outside the bounds as he broke away from Brantley defenders. He had another TD catch that was nullified by an illegal formation penalty.
Against FPC, Lawrence snapped straight and got the first TD of the half on a short run and then broke a 7-7 tie with a 10-yard TD reception with 6:46 left.
Rucker threw his third TD pass of the night to promising ninth-grader Kenyon Holden.
Rucker also connected with current junior Marvin Brown sophomore Justin Rosado for several big wins, including a 19-yard completion for Rosado that started a short TD run by Rory Thomas.
Relying mostly on Rucker’s arm, Seminole went to ground play late and capitalized on back-to-back 10-yard gains, running back Thomas and Tyrone Williams to set up Lawrence’s second TD catch.
All of this came from behind a powerful offensive line that included rising seniors Josiah Chenault (6-3, 290 pounds), Khaleeq Stevens (5-10, 275) and Bobbie Anderson (5-8, 240) and up-and-coming junior Max Buchanon (6-5, 280). The ‘Noles were missing returning starter Stefon Mango (6-3, 280).
“We brought back almost everyone on offense, so we expect to do well,” Rucker said. “It’s my second year here and the recipients and I have that connection now. I know the pieces better. We can open the playbook further this year.”
Seminole has more holes to fill on the other side of the ball, but its defense gave up just two first downs in four quarters of the game.
FPC’s result against the ‘Noles was a 96-yard pick-six interception return from Gerod Tolbert.
Seminole’s defensive line includes rising seniors Conner Hopson (6-2, 230), Dallas Hudson (6-0, 245) and Charles Green (6-2, 250) and rising junior Preston Watson (6-3, 275 ).
“We have a lot of talent and we have young people who are rising,” Lodge said after the conclusion of the jamboree. “We’re at this point where we want to be.”
The only major negative that night for the ‘Noles came after Lawrence’s third TD. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct in the end zone and kicked out of the game. Florida High School Athletic Association regulations state that players who are kicked out will be disallowed for at least one game. Without a successful appeal, it would mean he misses a regular season opener on August 26 at Sarasota Riverview.
Seminole, a state champion in 2008 and 2020, is scheduled to play in a Kickoff Classic preseason game against Edgewater, who finished 10-2 in 2019 and 2020 last fall, as a prelude to his brutal schedule.
The Seminoles also added games against Venice, last year’s 8A state champion; Kakao, winner of four state titles since 2008; Apopka, three-time state champion and runner-up in 2019 and 2021; and Kissimmee Osceola, three-time runners-up since 2014. Holdover games include longtime rivals Lake Mary, Lake Brantley and DeLand, which was a 2009 runner-up and is now managed by legendary coach Rick Darlington.
Lake Brantley held his downs in the late prelims after FPC had two touchdown plays nullified by penalties to beat the Bulldogs 7-0.
Andrew and Michael Harris, Lake Brantley’s twin tandem of highly drafted linebackers, impressed after being cautious last track season with hamstring problems. Both seemed to be in full swing, or at least close to it.
“It’s football. We were ready,” said Michael, who flashed and fired at Rucker in Seminole’s third game of the night. He later had another tackle for loss. Andrew also had a sack, delivering a shattering hit on a run by Rosado in the second quarter.
New Lake Brantley head coach Skip Clayton said his team is very young, particularly on offense where options quarterback Braxton Woodson (6-3, 190) will be surrounded by a number of newcomers.
“We’re not there yet. Summer is the next step,” Clayton told his team. “It starts on June (6) when everyone shows up every morning and we start getting it done in the weight room.”
This report was first published at www.orlandosentinel.com. Varsity Content Editor Buddy Collings can be reached via email at [email protected].