SARASOTA — AJ Strong wanted to make a statement this season.
After racking up more than 1,100 yards on the ground last season, The Out-of-Door Academy’s senior tailback wanted to prove to everyone who was watching that he could play at the next level.
“I want to let people know that I can play at the Division I or any college level,” Strong said at the beginning of the season. “People take our class for granted because we’re smaller, but I want people to know that I can play at that next level.”
Those that watched last Friday’s game versus Fort Myers Evangelical Christian received that message loud and clear. Strong racked up more than 250 yards on the ground, scored four touchdowns and had two interceptions, leading the Thunder to a 39-28 victory over the Sentinels, ranked No. 2 in the state in Class 1B, at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota. With the win, ODA improves to 4-1 and 2-0 in district play.
Junior Chris Ragone scored ODA’s two remaining touchdowns on a 70-yard interception return and a 95-yard kickoff return. The Thunder defense had another strong defensive performance, holding the Sentinels, who had scored 129 points in their two previous games, to a little more than 200 yards of total offense and intercepting the ball five times.
The Sentinels scored on their opening possession to take an early 7-0 lead before the Thunder responded on their ensuing possession. Evangelical Christian held a 14-13 lead in the second quarter before Strong scored his second touchdown of the game on the final play of the first half, giving ODA its first lead of the game.
ODA returns to action tomorrow night versus Shorecrest Prep School in a non-district matchup. The Chargers are 1-4 on the season after losing to Canterbury 21-12 last week. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
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Members and guests of the Lakewood Ranch Women’s Club ventured Dec. 4 to Orlando, to view holiday decorations at the Grand Floridian and to have lunch at Downtown Disney.
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