SEBRING - Football is a game of numbers and Sebring had them, while Avon Park didn't during Friday's spring football game at Firemen's Field in Sebring. The result was three unanswered second-half touchdowns and the Blue Streaks broke open a close game and posted a 34-6 victory over the Red Devils.
The Red Devils came into the game with just 21 players and lost a few more during the night, but put forth a strong effort and kept things close in the early going.
"We're only 21 strong right now-we had some injuries and we had some young men who decided they were going to hang it up, but we're not going to dwell on that," said Avon Park coach Wade Jackson. "I saw a lot of good things from our kids. The effort was there, the hustle was there. We just have to fix some things."
The Blue Streaks got on the scoreboard first when AJ Gayle scored from fours out with 1:12 remaining in the first quarter. Hunter Livingston's extra-point made it 7-0.
The Red Devils responded with a time-consuming drive that chewed up nearly eight minutes, with Jarviel Hart and Joe Nance both picking up big yardage on fourth-down carries. The Red Devils culminated the drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Lauer Lawson to Hart with 5:24 remaining in the second quarter. The 2-point conversion failed, keeping Sebring in front 7-6.
"I tip my hat to Avon Park," said Sebring coach LaVaar Scott. "Those kids came out and made it a game and they were able to get that touchdown. Our cornerback was there, but it was a great catch by (Hart)."
The Blue Streaks responded, but not until they had to overcome several penalties that wiped out big runs, including a 38-yard scamper by Toni Jenkins.
"We negated some big plays with penalties and some of the penalties were for kids being aggressive, so it's just little things than need to be fixed," Scott said. "Take away some penalties, we probably had 350 yeards. We still had 276."
Ladante Harris scored on a 24-yard reverse with 1:44 to go in the half. Livingston's extra-point made it 14-6.
"I knew with Avon Park only having 20 kids you were going to see what you looked like in the first half, because obviously they were going to wear down a little bit in the second half," Scott said. "I think the first half was so-so. We saw some good things, but defensively, we missed some tackles and we have to get better at tackling. We have a lot of new faces on defense."
Gayle scored his second touchdown of the game with 3:13 to go in the third quarter and Willie Allen bulled his way into the end zone with 10:45 remaining in the game to give Sebring a 27-7 lead.
Toni Jenkins raced 80 yards for Sebring's final touchdown of the game and Livingston's point-after accounted for the 34-6 final score.
"In the end the scoreboard says they beat us bad, but I don't look at that; not in a spring game," Jackson said. "That's not what I'm focused. We got tired towards the end and we have to get in shape and they know that."
Jackson said the Red Devils got exactly what they wanted to out of the game, getting the chance to move players around a bit and see how they reacted to in certain situations.
"We got some people in spots we wanted to see them in and they did a good job," he said. "We have to get in shape and get in the weight room and get stronger and we're going to be OK. I really believe that. I would go to war with these 21 young men any time."
Scott said the Red Devils are definitely heading in the right direction and he was pretty pleased with the way his team was moving, but knows they have more work to do before August.
"For putting in a new offense, we didn't install it all, but we put in enough to give them a foundation, we did well. I'm upbeat," Scott said. "We've seen a big improvement in the spring and we have to go all-in during the summer."
After the game the Blue Streaks handed out their spring football awards, with Jordan Acevedo winning the Heart Award; Desmond Edwards won the Most Improved Offense Award; Harris won the Most Improved Defense Award; and Jacquae Peart won the team's All-In Award.