In a back-and-forth affair, the Cardinal Mooney High and Lakewood Ranch High football teams battled for supremacy Friday night, with both teams showing off the firepower of their offenses.
It seemed as though whichever team scored last would take the victory. That axiom turned out to be true — the Cougars scored last and won 35-30, but in an ironic twist, the team needed a crucial defensive play to secure the victory.
Mooney's offense started the game with everything working. The Cougars sliced down the field and capped their opening drive with a quarterback keeper by senior Tayven Clark. The Cougars would then force a punt and score on their next possession too, on a Clark pass to junior J.R. Rosenberg. Lakewood Ranch cut the lead to 14-7 on a six-yard run by junior Kevin Everhart, but the Cougars would again open a 14-point lead after a 17-yard touchdown run from sophomore Carson Beach. The two teams would each add another score before the half — though the Mustangs had their extra point blocked — to make the halftime score 28-13 Cougars.
The Mustangs didn't waste any time in the second half in cutting that deficit. Senior Mustangs quarterback Cameron Madison found senior Kaden Allen for a 51-yard score. After forcing a punt, the Mustangs scored again, this time on a four-yard run by Everhart, which made the score 28-27. A 38-yard field goal from senior Drew Clark early in the fourth quarter would give Lakewood Ranch its first lead of the game at 30-28.
But the comeback was not meant to be. With 7:16 left in the game, Clark hit junior Cooper Flerlage on a seemingly routine screen pass to the right side of the field. Flerlage weaved his way across the field before turning toward the end zone up the left sideline. He outran the Mustangs defense to reach it. The 38-yard score put the Cougars up 35-30.
Lakewood Ranch had a chance to respond late in the game when Mooney freshman Ryan Matulevich fumbled in his own territory, but after reaching the red zone, Madison lost control of the ball on a scramble and gave it back to the Cougars. They would not get the ball again.
The Mooney offense racked up 387 yards. Clark finished 16 of 18 passing for 175 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 92 yards and a touchdown. Beach complemented him with 114 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
For the Mustangs, Madison finished 17 of 31 passing for 222 yards and two touchdowns. Everhart had 18 carries for 60 yards and two touchdowns, plus for catches for 28 yards and a touchdown.
Lakewood Ranch Coach Rashad West said the game came down to a few plays where Mooney executed better than the Mustangs. West said he believes his team can win close games like this one, but it will take more focus in practice to translate their skills to games.
Cardinal Mooney Coach Jared Clark was absent from the sidelines out of health precautions.