WESLEY CHAPEL – When Jelani Vassell took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, it appeared the rout was on for Wesley Chapel.
It was one of the few highlights for the Wildcats in the first half.
The extra point following the kickoff return was blocked. On defense, Wesley Chapel had a lapse in pass coverage on a big touchdown. A snap sailed out of the end zone, resulting in a safety. And the offense was stopped twice on downs.
Despite those miscues, the Wildcats found a way to win, rallying from a 10-point second-quarter deficit to beat Land O’Lakes 33-16 in the preseason.
“We did a lot of things wrong; had a lot of penalties and we’re going to work our tails on getting things right this week,” Wesley Chapel coach Tony Egan said. “In the second half, we calmed down, stopped shooting ourselves in the foot and just went out and executed.”
For much of the first half, the Gators made plays. Ethan Forrester, a transfer from Tampa Catholic, hit Tylor Winn on a 90-yard touchdown to give Land O’Lakes a 7-6 lead.
After the safety, the Gators scored again on a 5-yard run by Kyle Leivas to make it 16-6.
Wesley Chapel turned things around by relying on a devastating run game to wear down Land O’Lakes.
Dexter Leverett, a 1,000-yard rusher for the Wildcats last season, scored on a 15-yard run to cut it to 16-13 at the half.
Leverett scored again on a 6-yard run in the third quarter to put Wesley Chapel ahead 19-16 after the extra point failed.
The Wildcats showed off their depth at the skill positions with Malik Melvin weaving his way for a 20-yard touchdown and Vassell breaking off a pair of long runs that were called back on holding penalties.
Tyler Wittish rounded out the scoring on a 1-yard run for Wesley Chapel in the fourth quarter.