ORLANDO — When Devell Taylor heard an assistant coach asking him if he wanted to play, he jumped at the chance, figuring he would be going to his normal offensive position of wide receiver.
Instead, coaches were putting him at quarterback to run the wildcat.
“I was prepared because we’ve run it before, but I wasn’t expecting it because we hadn’t done it in a while,” Taylor said. “I just said ‘let’s go do this.’ ”
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Out of the wildcat, Taylor rushed for 35 yards on five carries, and scored the game-winning touchdown with 10:56 left in regulation in Astronaut’s 18-12 victory over Lake Highland Prep to clinch the second playoff spot in Class 4A, District 5.
“This is probably one of the biggest wins for the program, because we had been in the playoffs for like 15 years straight and we hadn’t made it since I started high school,” defensive end Mac Massengill said. “And now to be back where we are supposed to be and get the pride back at Astronaut, there ain’t nothing better.”
It didn’t start out so great for the War Eagles, though, who gave up four passing plays of 20 yards in the first quarter to quarterback Elijah Lucas and the Highlanders. After the Highlanders threatened on their first drive, but turned it over on downs, they came back the next drive and Lucas completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Bryton Belvin for the first points of the game.
After a sloppy start from the offense on its first two drives, Astronaut changed quarterbacks and put Jordan Wojciechowski under center. On Wojciechowski’s first snap, he handed off to Javian Hawkins, who broke three tackles around the line of scrimmage before taking off for a 76-yard touchdown.
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On the first Highlanders play following the Hawkins touchdown, Lucas completed a swing pass to Devyn Castor. Massengill sniffed it out and ran down Castor to force and recover a fumble, setting up a 39-yard field goal from Tristan Schultes.
“Those plays completely changed the momentum of the game,” Massengill said.
Tristan Schultes converted a 39-yard field goal on that drive, and Massengill would make his presence felt again in the second half.
Late in the third quarter Lucas dropped back to pass and Massengill read the play and dropped to block the pass, tipping it in the air as defensive lineman Harry Hampton dove on the ground to intercept it.
“Don’t sleep on Harry now, Harry is an athlete,” Massengill said. “I saw the tackle step back and made a high-hat read. I saw (Lucas) long-arm the throw and they had been completing a lot of short stuff behind, so coach always says if I can’t get there get my hands up.”
Taylor’s game-winning score would follow on the next drive. The Astronaut secondary that struggled early would come up big on a fourth-and-goal at the four as Jordan Taylor broke up Lucas’s throw to the end zone to get the ball back to the War Eagles, and then the War Eagles stopped the Highlanders again on a last second heave to the end zone from Lucas.
Astronaut has a meeting with Class 4A, District 5 leader Cocoa next week, and Lake Highland Prep (5-2) meets Holy Trinity Episcopal (6-1).
Astronaut 18, Lake Highland Prep 12
Astronaut 0 10 0 8 — 18
Lake Highland Prep 6 0 6 0 — 12
HOW THEY SCORED
LHP — Belvin 15 pass from Lucas (kick failed) – 3:38.
A — Hawkins 76 run (Schultes kick) – 6:29.
A — Schultes 39 field goal – 6:29.
LHP — Sheikh 70 fumble return (run failed) – 7:39.
A — Taylor 4 run (Schultes kick) – 10:56.
Rushing: A — Javian Hawkins 15-149 TD, Devell Taylor 6-35 TD, Brad Canarie 5-17, Jordan Wojciechowski 4-12, Cameron Ockerman 1-1, Leron Berry 1-1; LHP — Elijah Lucas 16-68, Nick Deese 3-6, Devyn Castor 11-51. Passing: A — Brad Canarie 0-5-0, Jordan Wojciechowski 1-2-0 13; LHP — Elijah Lucas 16-28-1 181 TD. Receiving: A — Mac Massengill 1-13. EJ Jimenez 5-87, Jalen Townsend 6-62, Bryton Belvin 1-15 TD, Briton Allen 1-22, Devyn Castor 1-3, Ali Aslam 1-17.