SEBRING - Sebring used a physical running game to rush for more than 300 yards and quarterback Jair Watson scored two touchdowns as the Blue Streaks whipped Lake Highland Prep by a score of 27-7 in their season opener on Friday night at Firemen's Field.
Sebring was plagued by mental mistakes all night, but managed to overcome them with a relentless effort and some big plays from its offense to open the season on a positive note.
"It's a win and we'll take a win, but it was very sloppy and you could tell we missed two practices this week," said Sebring coach LaVaar Scott. "We made a lot of mental mistakes on special teams, offense and defense. We had silly penalties and not having enough players on the field and we have a lot of things that have to get fixed."
The first quarter was a defensive battle as neither offense could move the ball with any consistency on the wet field after rain fell before the start of the game.
That changed quickly in the second quarter as Sebring took over at the Highlander 43 after a short punt.
Senior running back A.J. Gayle displayed great power as he broke several tackles on his way to a 43-yard touchdown run.
The extra point by Hunter Livingston was good to give the Blue Streaks a 7-0 lead with 11:42 left in the first half.
The swarming Sebring defense harassed Lake Highland Prep quarterback Evan Jager all night and held the talented senior to 48 yards rushing on 18 attempts.
After another punt, Sebring took possession at its 25. The Blue Streaks found the end zone in two plays as Gayle ripped off a 63-yard dash down the right sideline and tailback Giovanni Jenkins scampered into the end zone from 12 yards out.
Gayle rushed 14 times for 151 yards and the elusive Jenkins carried the ball eight times for 87 yards and a score.
The point after made it 14-0 with 7:50 remaining in the quarter.
"Our offensive line did a good job and all of our backs ran hard," Scott said. "We had to make some adjustments early in the game to their defensive alignment, but once we did that we ran the ball well."
Lake Highland Prep (Orlando) had the ball for the rest of the period and used a 32-yard pass on a fake punt to move inside the Sebring 10.
But the Blue Streaks rose up and batted down three consecutive passes in the end zone to end the threat and the half.
The Blue Streaks recovered an onside kick by the Highlanders to open the second half and found the end zone in one play as Watson faked to the running back off tackle and kept the ball around left end for a 40-yard touchdown run.
The extra point made it 21-0 with 11:45 remaining in the third quarter.
"Jair made a great read because they had been coming hard off the edge," Scott said. "He pulled the ball back and away he went and that was a great play by him." Sebring, which continued to apply pressure on Jager, had six sacks and limited him to 12 completions in 31 attempts for 89 yards and one late touchdown.
The Class 6A Blue Streaks sealed the win with an 11-play, 63-yard drive capped by Watson's 4 yard burst around right end.
The point after was blocked to make it 27-0 with 3:36 left in the third period.
Lake Highland Prep finally got on the scoreboard when Jager found Orlando Matthew for an 8-yard scoring strike. The point after was good to pull the Class 5A Highlanders within 27-7 with 2:14 remaining in the game.
Sebring took possession and ran out the clock for the victory.
The Blue Streaks are on the road on Friday at Okeechobee.
"It's going to be about us in practice this week," Scott said. "I'm concerned about Okeechobee, but we have to fix us first.