Apopka eyes an­other play­off run

Orlando Sentinel - - WEATHER/VARSITY -

Apopka has over­come in­ex­pe­ri­ence and self-in­flicted set­backs to ex­tend its foot­ball sea­son into the Class 8A re­gion play­offs.

The Blue Darters (8-3) rushed for a sea­son-best 439 yards in a 54-21 win at higher-seeded Semi­nole in the first round and face an­other road chal­lenge in Fri­day night’s re­gion semi­fi­nal against un­beaten Win­ter Park (11-0), which is ranked No. 2 in the Sentinel Su­per 16 and seeded No. 1 in the re­gion.

Kick­off is sched­uled for 7:30 p.m. at Showal­ter Field.

No. 4 Apopka, which has rushed for at least 400 yards four times in 2017, hasn’t lost this many times in a sin­gle sea­son since fin­ish­ing 11-4 and win­ning its sec­ond state ti­tle in three years in 2014.

Turnovers against ri­vals Wekiva and West Or­ange and a poor de­fen­sive ef­fort on the road against Lake­land re­sulted in one-pos­ses­sion losses that could’ve gone ei­ther way.

“It’s taught us to re­main hum­ble,” Apopka sopho­more

said. “We’ve just had to keep our heads high through the big games we’ve won and the big games we’ve lost.

“We know that the losses that we had were not de­feats, they were just losses, be­cause no­body can beat Apopka but Apopka.”

Davis-Hamil­ton is one of sev­eral un­der­class­man in the back­field re­spon­si­ble for help­ing the Blue Darters av­er­age 333 rush­ing yards per game. Pro­tect­ing the foot­ball will be key this week for a team that re­lies on a ju­nior, three sopho­mores and a fresh­man at the skill po­si­tions.

Apopka has turned the ball over 18 times this sea­son, in­clud­ing 12 via fum­ble, while the Win­ter Park de­fense has 21 in­ter­cep­tions and 17 fum­ble re­cov­er­ies.

The op­po­site semi­fi­nal in Re­gion 1 matches sixth seed Boone (9-2) against the No. 2 seed, Wekiva (10-1), which is ranked third in the Su­per 16 be­hind Kis­sim­mee Osce­ola (10-0) and Win­ter Park.

If Win­ter Park beats the Blue Darters the Wild­cats would be home again next week against the Boone-Wekiva win­ner.

Osce­ola, the top seed in 8A, Re­gion 2 is home on Fri­day against Dr. Phillips (9-2), which is seeded fourth in the re­gion.

Oak Ridge, a clear fa­vorite to make a run at the Class 9A boys bas­ket­ball state cham­pi­onship that Kis­sim­mee Osce­ola wants to de­fend, is likely to open its sea­son with­out at least one or two of the big names on its ros­ter. But the Pi­o­neers, al­ready deep, be­came even more tal­ented when 6-foot-4 ju­nior dunk artist re­turned to the school sev­eral weeks ago af­ter spend­ing most of the se­mes­ter at Vil­lages.

“This is fam­ily and I’m back home,” he said af­ter a Mon­day prac­tice. “There are more peo­ple I’m com­fort­able with here.”

Glover, a gifted scorer, av­er­aged 9.9 points per game as a sopho­more — sec­ond on the team be­hind All-Cen­tral Florida guard who trans­ferred to Montverde Academy for his se­nior sea­son.

Oak Ridge se­nior (6-6), who signed with Texas A&M on Tues­day, is side­lined with a frac­ture in his right hand suf­fered dur­ing a fall league game. He hopes to be back early in De­cem­ber. The sta­tus of five-star prospect

a 6-7 se­nior power for­ward who en­rolled this sum­mer, is un­cer­tain. Wil­liams was ar­rested last month on felony sex­ual bat­tery and false im­pris­on­ment charges. He pleaded not guilty on Oct. 28. The case re­mains ac­tive.

Oak Ridge will be at home for pre­sea­son games on Mon­day vs. Downey Chris­tian and on Tues­day vs. Vic­tory Academy, an Or­lando in­de­pen­dent pro­gram.

Or­lando Chris­tian Prep had just about ev­ery­thing ex­cept a true cen­ter when it won its sixth state bas­ket­ball in a decade last sea­son.

Check that off the list with the ad­di­tion of a 6-foot-10 ju­nior from the Ba­hamas.

Jones is an­other col­lege prospect for a loaded lineup. More im­por­tantly, his length frees ju­nior rim pro­tec­tor

(6-7) to roam out­side the paint for a team that also has phys­i­cal for­ward

With the boys bas­ket­ball reg­u­lar sea­son start­ing a week later this year — af­ter Thanks­giv­ing — the FHSAA al­lowed schools some flex­i­bil­ity in sched­ul­ing pre­sea­son games. Many are play­ing those Tip-Off Clas­sic ex­hi­bi­tions this week to free up some hol­i­day time next week.

“I al­ways felt bad for our play­ers be­cause they never re­ally had a Thanks­giv­ing break,” Or­lando Chris­tian Prep coach said Mon­day. “I’d like to see them move it back one more week, but this is a good thing.”

The War­riors, who re­turned eight play­ers from a 3A state cham­pi­onship sea­son, are one of six teams tun­ing up in a jam­boree at Hagerty on Thurs­day and Fri­day. All the teams will play halves against two dif­fer­ent op­po­nents each day, start­ing at 4:30 p.m., with Mas­ter’s Academy, The First Academy, Oviedo, Or­lando Univer­sity and the host Huskies also par­tic­i­pat­ing.

Wekiva hosts games tonight. Tim­ber Creek and Ocoee have dou­ble­head­ers Thurs­day

Wekiva holds its sec­ond night of Tip-Off Clas­sic play tonight.

Tim­ber Creek hosted pre­sea­son games on Tues­day and has an­other dou­ble­header on Thurs­day night.

Ocoee is host­ing pre­sea­son play on Thurs­day and Mon­day nights, with Cen­tral Florida Chris­tian Academy, Win­ter Park and Lake­land Kath­leen join­ing the Knights.

Oth­ers will play pre­sea­son games next week.

Win­der­mere Prep, with 7-foot ju­nior join­ing a ros­ter with re­turn­ing vet­er­ans and

hosts Tip-Off games Mon­day and Tues­day.

Lewis, a dy­namic point guard, might not make a pre­sea­son ap­pear­ance since he will play foot­ball in Satur­day’s Sun­shine State Ath­letic Con­fer­ence ti­tle game.

Orange­wood also hosts a Tip-Off event Mon­day and Tues­day, with Lake High­land Prep and Bishop Moore in that field; as does Dr. Phillips.

The boys bas­ket­ball reg­u­lar sea­son opens Nov. 27. high­lytouted

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