It’s hard to call a spring game a must-win, inasmuch as it doesn’t count, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.
“We needed to win,” said Lantz Lowery, whose second spring as head football coach at Interlachen High School ended Friday with a 24-7 defeat of Jacksonville Eagle’s View at Thompson-Baker Stadium.
“I don’t like feeling like we need to win a spring game,” said Lowery, “but the kids needed it.”
They earned it, too.
Interlachen never trailed and its flexbone offense netted 257 yards despite intermittent rain, rushing for 179. The defense was burned for 52 yards on a reverse that set up the Warriors’ only score or it probably would have posted a shutout.
A rising senior and an all-county linebacker the last two seasons, first-time starting quarterback Brennan Wykoff completed 4 of 9 passes for 78 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown strike to Deadrell Brown, and ran seven times for 47 yards and one score.
“I need him to be (a leader). Hopefully, we’ll have the senior leadership we haven’t had,” Lowery said.
By no means was it a one-man show. Daniel Perez’ 54-yard touchdown sprint highlighted his 62-yard night on the ground. Vick Fields carried 11 times for 50 yards. Brown caught two passes for 55 yards, Kolby Foshee two for 23.
T.J. Beauford recovered two fumbles, Ian Okesson came up with a late interception and Gavin Grayson, Steven Larsen and Darrius Mercer were in on tackles for losses. Logan White was perfect on three extra-point tries and got the Rams on the board with a 23-yard field goal.
Certainly there were flaws. Lowery’s biggest worry was nine penalties for 105 yards, one of which erased a touchdown. The Rams fumbled four times, losing one, and Wykoff was intercepted inside the Eagle’s View 5-yard-line.
“Other than some dumb, running-off-at-the-mouth penalties, the kids were fine,” Lowery said. “We put the ball on the ground a little too much, but (on) a wet field, it happens. We’ve got to throw the ball better.”
Beauford’s fumble recovery at the Warrior 21 set up the game’s first score, the 23-yard field goal by White at the 4:26 mark of the first quarter. It came two plays after a rare offensive facemask penalty negated Fields’ 4-yard touchdown run.
The lead grew to 10-0 one play after the Warriors’ curious – and unsuccessful – try for a first down on fourth and eight from their 28-yard line. The Rams drew a procedure penalty, then Wykoff fired right to Brown, who turned up the middle and outran the secondary for 33 yards and a touchdown.
Eagle’s View had little luck in its initial possessions, then K.J. Joyner raced 52 yards on a reverse, brought down at the 10. Colt Miller took it up the middle from there and it was 10-7 with 10:22 left in the second quarter.
“We bit down in the jet sweep,” said Lowery of Joyner’s run. “They came out in some formations we hadn’t prepared for.”
An interception kept Interlachen from padding its lead before halftime, but the Rams drove 55 yards in 11 plays on their first series of the second half. They made one third- and one fourth-down conversion and were looking at third and nine when Wykoff rolled left to pass and wound up weaving his way to the end zone with 4:07 left in the third quarter.
Perez capped the scoring for Interlachen with his 54-yard touchdown run, a dash up the middle with 3:33 left in the game.