BRADENTON — After clinching the district title two weeks ago, The Out-of-Door Academy’s rivalry game against Saint Stephen’s didn’t hold the same weight as in years past.
Rather than vying for a playoff berth, the Thunder simply were playing for bragging rights and a chance to finish the district season undefeated.
So maybe that’s why ODA didn’t come out with the same intensity.
But after trailing 17-14 at halftime, ODA came out of the locker room refocused, scoring three second-half touchdowns to defeat the Falcons 35-24 in Class 1B-District 6 action Nov. 6, capturing their third consecutive Headmaster’s Cup.
With the win, the Thunder improved their record to 7-1 and a perfect 5-0 in district play. Meanwhile the Falcons fell to 4-5 (2-3).
“We told the guys to relax and just go out and play ball,” ODA coach Brett Timmons said. “We felt as if they were pressing and trying to do things on their own accord instead of playing as one.”
Saint Stephen’s took a 7-0 lead on the first play of its opening possession when running back Cameron Allen burst down the sideline for a 90-yard touchdown.
ODA tied the game on its ensuing possession when senior running back AJ Strong punched the ball in from two yards out.
The Falcons responded on their next possession when Matt Unzicker drilled a 32-yard field goal through the uprights. Saint Stephen’s extended its lead when quarterback Adam Vining found the end zone from two yards out, giving the Falcons a 17-7 advantage.
ODA gained momentum late in the second quarter when Saint Stephen’s was called for pass interference on the 18-yard line as time expired, giving ODA an extra down. Thunder quarterback Brian Ragone connected with Brody Wiseman for the touchdown, cutting Saint Stephen’s lead to three heading into the locker room.
Wiseman’s touchdown sparked the Thunder who outscored the Falcons 21-7 in the second half. ODA scored the lone points of the third quarter when Ragone connected with Kevin Ramsey for a 10-yard touchdown.
Saint Stephen’s regained the lead on the opening drive of the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run by Vining, but the lead proved to be short lived as Strong added a pair of touchdowns on runs of 5 and 31 yards in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for the Thunder.
“Instead of trying to accumulate individual statistics the guys just relaxed and started to play like a team,” Timmons said.
ODA will close out its regular season at home tomorrow night versus Villages Charter School. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
“We are going to focus on getting better and finishing out the season on high note — we would like to send our seniors out on a high note,” Timmons said.
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