GAINESVILLE — The winningest senior class in Sunlake’s short history will have to look back at what could’ve been at Milton Lewis Field on a cold, rainy Friday.
In a game that featured several big momentum swings late in the final quarter, the final couple swung right into the lap of Gainesville in spite of what looked to be the game-winning touchdown scored by Sunlake with under two minutes remaining. The Hurricanes blocked a Seahawks punt with 47.1 seconds and Alex Holloway knocked down a 42-yard field goal with 8.8 seconds left to help Gainesville come away with a 17-14 victory in a Class 6A-Region 2 quarterfinal.
“Unfortunately, we had some silly penalties towards the end there that cost us the game,” Sunlake coach Bill Browning said. “The seniors are a great bunch of guys. The effort was fantastic tonight.”
Sunlake (9-2) kept up with Gainesville (9-2) and played its game plan nearly to perfection. Seahawks junior tailback Nathan Johnson had 27 carries for 114 yards and one TD. Sunlake’s tenacious defense came after Gainesville’s skill players, as Hurricanes quarterback Caelan Christian (six of 19, 54 yards) and running back Tony James (21 carries, 124 yards) both were injured during the game and came out. Though Sunlake held Gainesville to 189 yards, both players returned and James would make the biggest impact.
After being tied at 7 since the 5:05 mark in the second quarter, Sunlake took the lead in the fourth period on a 67-yard touchdown pass from Esteban LeWallen (five of 12, 133 yards) to a wide-open Ricardo Williams with 1:37 left. Two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, however would push Sunlake back to its own 5, on the ensuing kickoff, James returned the short kick 65 yards to tie the game at 14.
Sunlake decided to punt with about 55 seconds left, but Gainesville’s Mailon Waddell blocked the punt. The Hurricanes took over with 47 seconds left before Holloway ended it.
Sunlake 0 7 0 7 — 14
Gainesville 0 7 0 10 — 17
S - Johnson 5 run (Wilkinson kick)
G - McGriff 3 pass from Christian (Holloway kick)
S - Williams 67 pass from LeWallen (Wilkinson kick)
G - James 67 kickoff return (Holloway kick)
G - FG Holloway 42