SEBRING - A game with playoff implications that started out so well for Sebring turned into a one-sided contest as Lake Gibson defeated the Blue Streaks by a score of 30-7 Friday night at Firemen's Field.
The Class 6A-District 11 win improved the Braves to 6-2 overall, 2-1 in district play and earned them a berth in the state playoffs as the district runner-up.
The loss dropped a banged up Sebring squad to 5-4, 1-2 and ended any hopes for the playoffs.
"We battled against a good Lake Gibson team," said Sebring coach LaVaar Scott. "We came out strong to open the game, but Lake Gibson has an explosive offense and we had a tough time containing their passing game.
"We hung in there for the most part, but with the injuries we have, some of our young guys had to play a lot of minutes and Lake Gibson did a good job of picking on them."
Sebring stunned the Braves by scoring on its opening possession of the game.
Blue Streak junior quarterback Jair Watson connected with wide receiver Duran Randolph on a 41-yard pass play and Watson scored on a quarterback draw up the middle for a 7-yard touchdown.
The extra point by Hunter Livingston gave Sebring a 7-0 lead with 9:36 remaining in the first quarter.
"That's how we needed to come out to start the game," Scott said. "We got the big play and then scored to give us a lot of momentum."
The Sebring defense stepped up on Lake Gibson's next drive by stopping Braves' senior quarterback Trey Congdon on fourth-and-goal from the one.
But the Blue Streaks were caught in the end zone for a safety to make it 7-2 and Lake Gibson had great field position after the kick at their 45.
The Braves moved 65 yards in six plays with the 6-foot-5 Congdon capping the drive with a nifty 13-yard touchdown run.
The point after by Beckly Njoh gave Lake Gibson a 9-7 lead with 9:49 remaining in the second quarter.
The Sebring offense struggled to run against a swarming Braves defense and constant pressure on Watson affected the Blue Streak passing attack.
Lake Gibson extended its lead when Congdon connected with wide receiver Jeremy Crissey on a 32-yard touchdown pass. The extra point made it 16-7 with 3:50 left until halftime.
Congdon, a very accurate passer, completed 14 of 22 passes for 228 yards and one touchdown.
"Lake Gibson has an explosive passing game and Congdon is a Division I quarterback," said Scott. "They figured out our weak spots and they went after them."
The Braves continued to stifle the Blue Streaks offense and managed to score before halftime when Boles powered his way in from a yard out. The extra point made it 23-7 at the half.
Sebring put together a solid drive to open the third quarter and moved down to the Braves 45, but a third-down pass by Watson was intercepted at the Lake Gibson 4-yard line.
The Braves marched 96 yards in 12 plays with Boles scoring on a 2-yard burst off right tackle. The point after gave Lake Gibson a commanding 30-7 lead with 2:58 remaining in the third period.
Sebring had one final drive into Lake Gibson territory in the final quarter, but Watson's pass was picked off to kill the threat.
The Braves were content to move the ball on the ground to run the clock and seal the district victory.
"We played hard and the second half was a 7-0 game," said Scott. "We have to put this game behind us and get ready for our last game of the season."
Sebring will host Avon Park on Friday and the Red Devils will be flying high after beating Lake Placid by a score of 49-28 on Friday night to earn their first win of the season.
"Avon Park is going to be riding high after winning its first game of the season," Scott said. "We have to get ready to play because we want to win and finish the season at 6-4.
"That's a lot better than 5-5 and it would be four more wins than we had last year."
With no playoffs possible, a win over the Red Devils would give the Blue Streaks a winning record, bragging rights and positive momentum heading into the offseason.
"We can accomplish a lot of things with a win over Avon Park," Scott said. "We lose 14 seniors off this team, but we have a solid nucleus of players returning, plus a bunch of good athletes that played on the junior varsity this season.
"A lot of our younger guys got a lot of experience this season and it should make us a better football team next year."