As the final seconds ticked off the clock Saturday night in the Class 8A state championship football game at the Florida Citrus Bowl, Apopka coach Rick Darlington sought out his son, junior quarterback Zack Darlington and gave him a big hug.
The emotion of the moment was overwhelming.
Apopka won the title — the second in school history — with a touchdown drive in the final two minutes and then Rakeem Smith made what may have been the biggest defensive play when he intercepted a pass in the end zone with 26 seconds remaining.
Apopka defeated Weston Cypress Bay 53-50 Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 8,009 fans.
“We just believed, we just believed,” senior center Dazzie Morris said, tears in his eyes.”We had to do it. We had to go out there and get a big touchdown in a big game.”
Chandler Cox , a sophomore fullback, scored the game winning touchdown on a 2-yard carry with 1:29 remaining in the game.
Then Cypress Bay drove to the Apopka 13-yard line and faced a third-and-10. Lightning quarterback Jaranta Lewis tried to force a pass into a receiver. Apopka’s J.J. Simmons had perfect position, deflected the pass and Smith dove to catch the ball just before it hit the ground.
“I was shocked, very shocked,” Smith said. “I just kept running to the ball. I saw the ball come loose. I dove for it. I didn’t know I had it. I just looked up at the referee.
“This is the third interception I have had this season, but I will never forget it.”
It was a play that neither Morris nor Zack Darlington even saw.
“I got down on my knees with Dazzie and prayed. I just said Lord, give us a big play,” Darlington said.”I have been saying all season that big guys make big plays in big games and that is what J.J. and Rakeem did.”
Rick Darlington also was hoping for a big defensive play.
“That’s all I was asking for. Nothing else. ‘God, just please give us a turnover,’” Rick Darlington said. “We couldn’t stop them. I guess we just had one more bullet left in the gun than they did.
“They just kept fighting. Adversity hit them over and over again, and they just kept fighting.”
Apopka senior running back Jevric Blocker may have summed it up best for Apopka.
“This feels really good,” Blocker said.
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