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Friday, Apr 20, 2018
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Sunlake knocks off Gators in overtime

LAND O’ LAKES — Sometimes, four quarters isn’t enough.

For a rivalry this big, this personal, of course, overtime was the answer. So, in arguably one of the best games in Pasco County in years, it was the crosstown matchup that kept fans on the edge of their seats until the end.

Sunlake edged Land O’ Lakes 28-21 in overtime, beating the Gators for the third straight year and keeping the Seahawks’ postseason hopes alive.

“Beating the rival is everything,” Sunlake linebacker Ben Wood said. “Land O’ Lakes started talking back in June during 7-on-7 (football) that they would beat us, and coach (Bill Browning) just told us to keep that in our minds. We’ve been waiting a long time for tonight.”

In overtime, Sunlake (7-1, 2-1 6A-6) took offense first and Nathan Johnson, who rushed 34 times for 141 yards and three touchdowns, took in a 5-yard score for the lead. Land O’ Lakes (6-1, 1-1) would turn to quarterback James Pensyl to get in the end zone after he went 12-for-29 passing for 122 yards and three touchdowns in regulation. However, the Seahawks defense, which had allowed just 23 points entering the game, defended all four of Pensyl’s passes, including a deflection by Esteban LeWallen, Sunlake’s quarterback and safety.

“It was huge for the defense to stand up there and defend against four passes in overtime when they’re tired,” Browning said. “I tell you, this was what makes a great high school football game, just both teams playing their hearts out, but we fought and scratched our way against a great team.”

The Seahawks took a 7-0 lead in the first on Johnson’s first touchdown, but it wasn’t until the second that the Gators tied it when Pensyl hit Stefan Zapata. Land O’ Lakes would take a brief lead in the fourth when Shaheed Salmon blocked a 41-yard, Chris Wilkinson field goal and Noah Randall returned it 56 yards to to set up a Pensyl to Liam Heaney score.

Sunlake would score twice — Johnson’s second score and a LeWallen 3-yard keeper — but the Gators would take it 80 yards and score with 2:30 remaining with a Pensyl to Ethan Weilant 15-yard touchdown pass.


LOL 0 7 14 0 0— 21

Sunlake 7 0 0 14 7— 28

S - Johnson 1 run (Wilkinson kick)

L - Zapata 10 pass from Pensyl (Dowler kick)

L - Heaney 15 pass from Pensyl (Dowler kick)

S - Johnson 1 run (Wilkinson kick)

S - LeWallen 3 run (Wilkinson kick)

L - Weilant 15 pass from Pensyl (Dowler kick)

S - Johnson 5 run (Wilkinson kick)

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