LAKE MARY — Jacksonville First Coast boasts four seniors who have committed to major colleges and several others weighing scholarship offers. But underclass quarterback De'Andre Johnson is the lightning rod who stirs the Buccaneers' explosive offense and he was the guy who doused Lake Mary's state playoff dreams on Friday night.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound junior accounted for every First Coast score with three touchdown runs and two TD passes to Tristan Payton in leading the Bucs (11-1) to a 35-16 Class 8A regional win over the previously unbeaten Rams.
Johnson, who committed to sign with FSU as a 10th-grader, was 19-of-28 passing for 176 yards. He added 44 rushing yards, with all but two of his eight carries going for either a TD or first down.
Lake Mary, which trailed by 11 at halftime and following a scoreless third quarter, closed to within 21-16 with eight minutes remaining in the game. Junior receiver Nick Westbrook made a circus TD catch on a pass from senior quarterback Daniel Brown to cap a 14-play, 88-yard march.
But Johnson generated 73 yards on an ensuing 77-yard TD drive that put First Coast back in control. He tacked on a final score with 2:26 remaining after Lake Mary gave up an interception on a deep pass attempt by Brown.
Tears flowed from teenage eyes as the winningest season in Lake Mary football history came to an end.
"We had the heart and we prepared hard all week," said Rams senior defensive tackle Adam Torres. "It just wasn't our night. They were the most athletic team we played."
Brown and Cannon Thompson combined to pass for 190 yards, with Westbrook snagging 11 catches for 122 yards. Rams ninth-grader Marquise Mickens ran for 99 yards on 20 carries. But turnovers kept Lake Mary from matching Johnson's offensive barrage.
The Rams gave up a fumble in First Coast territory in the opening quarter and an interception thrown by Brown from the Bucs' 22 late in the second quarter.
"I thought my boys played hard. Proud of them," Rams coach Scott Perry said. "We just made more mistakes than [First Coast] did."
Brown completed 15 of 28 pass attempts for 171 yards and added 45 yards rushing.
After First Coast fumbled away a chance to score on its first series, the Rams used creative play-calling to drive 67 yards for the early lead. Brown hit his first three pass attempts, one for 34 yards on a leaping catch by Westbrook. A holding penalty moved the ball back but Mickens took a draw play 20 yards on a third-and-18.
Four plays later, Lake Mary fooled First Coast with a fake field goal attempt. Thompson, the holder, rose up to loft a 9-yard TD pass to junior Charles Lamar.
Jacksonville First Coast 35, Lake Mary 16
FIRST – LM: Lamar 9 pass from Thompson (Crenshaw kick); FC: Johnson 1 run (Scott kick); FC: Payton 57 pass from Johnson (Scott kick). SECOND – LM: Crenshaw 29 field goal; FC: Payton 16 pass from Johnson (Scott kick). FOURTH – LM: Westbrook 17 pass from Brown (pass failed); FC: Johnson 5 run (Scott kick); FC: Johnson 3 run (Scott kick).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun