The Cougars moves to 5-1 as they handed the Stingrays their first loss of the season with a last-second victory.
After suffering their first loss of the season to Plant City earlier in September, Durant football jumped back into the win column with a 47-17 win over Lennard before returning home to host the 5-0 Sumner Stingrays last Friday, coming away with a thrilling 28-27 victory in the game’s final seconds.
Lining up to receive the opening kick, Durant took over at the 30-yard line following a return from receiver Jaylin Torres. And on the first play from scrimmage, the Cougars immediately moved up to midfield on a pitch to running back Christian Gambrell. After an incomplete pass on first down, Durant was able to move the chains with a five-yard run from Emmanuel Lee and a five-yard completion from quarterback Mike Ryan to Jaylin Torres, setting the Cougars up at the 37.
A swing pass to receiver Damari Styles looked to have the Cougars quickly moved down into the Sumner red zone at the 20, but a holding penalty moved Durant back and they were unable to overcome the initial loss as Ryan sent a pooch punt down to the Sumner 12.
Starting deep in their own territory, the Stingrays wasted no time moving down the field with a swing pass that gained 12 to the 26-yard line, followed by a carry to the 34 and a pair of short completions that left Sumner set up right near midfield at their own 48. On the ensuing first down, running back Devin Spencer opened up the scoring as he broke free for a long touchdown run up the right side to give Sumner a 7-0 lead with 5:50 remaining in the first quarter.
After another short kick from Sumner, Torres hauled in the kick and Durant took over at the 34-yard line to start their second drive of the contest. With a pass broken up on first and a run up the middle that resulted in a loss of two, the Cougars were immediately set up with a third-and-long as Ryan lofted a pass deep down the left sideline for a deep completion to Jayden Cornelius across midfield. Ryan was pressured on his next dropback and forced to throw the ball away, being flagged for an intentional grounding penalty that once again put Durant behind the chains and set them up with an insurmountable down and distance as they ultimately punted back to Sumner.
Once again backed up in their own territory at the 13 following a fair catch on the Durant punt, Sumner quickly began to make their way down the field again. After a short carry on first down, Spencer found daylight for another explosive run that put the Stingrays at the 36 and on the next play Durant’s front four nearly reached quarterback Layton Kennison for a big sack, but he was able to spin out of the pressure and take off for a big run across midfield to the Durant 43. Three consecutive runs moved the Stingrays all the way down to the Durant 18-yard line when Spencer yet again made his presence felt as he bolted up the right sideline for a touchdown run to extend the Sumner lead to 14-0 with 11:25 left in the second quarter.
Finding themselves in an early deficit, Durant took advantage of a personal foul penalty on Sumner that moved the ensuing kickoff back as the Cougars were able to take over near midfield at their own 45-yard line to start their next drive. And as the second quarter wore on, rain began to fall on the heated district matchup. With an incompletion on first down, Lee burst through the middle on a strong run up the middle on second down – plowing through defenders as he worked his way down to the Sumner 28-yard line. A tackle for loss on first set the Cougars up with second-and-15 and a short completion left Durant facing a third-and-11. Flushed out of the pocket, Ryan was forced to take off and was tackled at the line of scrimmage but a personal foul on Sumner gave the Cougars new life at the 15. A pair of runs for no gain, followed by a mishandled snap in the pouring rain, left Durant settling for a field goal attempt that ultimately fell shorth and turned the ball back over to Sumner at the 20-yard line.
After a successful defensive stand forced Sumner into punt formation, Durant was left with time for one more drive to claw back into the contest before halftime. Jayden Forte brought in the Sumner punt at the Durant 45 with 3:22 left in the second and another personal foul penalty on the Stingrays immediately pushed possession across midfield to the 40. A first down carry for no gain and a swing pass that lost three left the Cougars facing a quick third-and-13. Ryan rolled to his next on the play and fired incomplete for Cornelius, but in what quickly seemed to become a habit for Sumner, a personal foul penalty gave the Cougars a first down at the 28. A strong run from Lee took Durant to the 20 and a hard count from Ryan forced the Sumner front to jump offside for a first down at the 15. Lee once again punched a carry up the middle down to the six, then to the three, and after another Sumner offside penalty put Durant inside the two-yard line, Ryan was able to get across the goalline on a quarterback sneak to cut the deficit to 14-6 just before halftime.
As play stopped at the conclusion of the second quarter, rain continued to grow stronger and lightning entered the area – eventually forcing the remainder of the game to be postponed until Saturday morning.
With the game getting back rolling the next morning, Sumner wasted no time picking up where they left off the night before as they extended their lead with a touchdown, leaving the contest 20-6 as Quentin Pope came up with a crucial block on the extra point attempt to leave the Cougars deficit at just 14 points
Punching back, Durant responded with a score of their own on a touchdown pass to Cornelius that pulled the Cougars within seven and Sumner answered with a long, methodical scoring drive that pushed them back up by two scores as they led 27-13 with just over six minutes remaining in the contest.
Opening their ensuing drive at the 27-yard line and needing a score quickly, Durant was able to do just that as Ryan found Pope for a 33-yard reception before Lee broke free for a 30-yard touchdown – pulling Durant back to within seven again at 27-20. And when the moment was the biggest, the Cougars’ defense stood tall as they forced just their second three-and-out of the game and left Sumner settling with a punt as Durant prepared for a one more crucial drive that would ultimately determine the game.
Marching their way down the field, picking up a pair of do-or-die fourth down conversions along the way, the Cougars found themselves sitting at the 21-yard line with just nine seconds left. Coming out of the timeout, Ryan dropped back to pass and fired a strike over the middle of the field to Styles who found space underneath the deep coverage and made his way into the end zone and brought the Cougars back within one, trailing 27-26. With a chance to tie the game and all but assuredly send the contest to overtime with an extra point, Durant opted to put the game in their own hands and attempt the two point conversion to win. Out of the shotgun formation, Ryan took the snap and handed the ball off to Cornelius as he darted to the right side on a sweep – looking up and tossing the ball to a wide open Hunter Smith for a successful two point conversion that sealed a 28-27 victory for the Cougars in the game’s final moments.
The victory pushed Durant to 5-1 on the year and 1-0 in the district, allowing them to leap over Sumner in the district standings where they trail only 5-0 Riverview. The Cougars will return to action this Friday as they host 2-4 Sickles.
Offensively for the Cougars, Ryan completed 10 of his 22 attempts for 153 yards and two passing touchdowns while adding one rushing touchdown. In the backfield, Lee led the charge with 148 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries, followed by Gambrell with 24 yards on three attempts. At receiver, Cornelius totaled 58 receiving yards and one touchdown on three catches, followed by Pope with 33 yards on one reception, Styles with 29 yards and one touchdown on three receptions, Lee with 19 yards on one reception, Torres with 14 yards on two receptions and Smith with three yards on one reception.
Defensively, linebackers Brant Bovee and Hale Sollmann each notched double digit tackles with 13 and 11, respectively, while Bovee also led the unit with two tackles for loss and the defense’s lone sack.
Across town, Plant City moved to 4-2 with a 54-14 win over previously unbeaten Alonso while Strawberry Crest fell to 3-2 with a 35-0 loss at the hands of Plant.
Offensively for the Raiders, quarterback Chris Denson completed 16 of his 21 attempts for 301 yards and four touchdowns while adding 98 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns on the ground. Outside of Denson, Tony Marshall was the only other Raider to register a carry on the evening as he finished the contest with 176 rushing yards and one touchdown on 16 carries while adding 42 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown. Out wide, Josh Gueh and Haven Pierce each totaled 72 receiving yards and one touchdown while all of Pierce’s production came on one lone catch and Gueh did his damage across five receptions, followed by 52 yards and one touchdown on three catches from T.J. Knighten, 41 yards on three catches from C.J. McClain and 22 yards on two catches from Zykee Joyce.
Defensively, Travont Panier led the unit with 11 total tackles while Davin Stone-Grant totaled a team-high four tackles for loss and three sacks, followed by two sacks from Panier and one each from Simeon Hogan, Dacoby McDonald and Donta Jenkins. Trae’veon Smith, Michael Bell and Hogan each notched an interception while Smith added a forced fumble that was recovered by Panier.
Offensively for the Chargers, Roosevelt Miller manned the quarterback spot, completing two of his seven attempts for eight yards while adding three rushing yards. On the ground, Devin Blunt totaled 31 yards on 14 carries, Gage Reibsome totaled 31 yards on 10 carries and Thimothee Woods totaled 20 yards on one carry.
Defensively, Jake Curtin led the unit with five total tackles while Malachi Johnson, Jace Eldridge and Brice Schmidt each notched one tackle for loss.
Strawberry Crest will look to get back in the win column this Friday as they make their way to Middleton to face the 1-4 Tigers.