The Thunder held a 19-0 lead but let it slip away.
The Out-of-Door Academy's miraculous playoff run was not destined for a storybook ending after all.
In fact, the Thunder's season ended with a heartbreaking defeat.
The Thunder (2-5) fell 20-19 to Bishop Snyder High (6-5) Saturday afternoon at Bryant Stadium in Lakeland. It came after ODA controlled the majority of the game, even taking a 19-0 lead in the third quarter. Senior quarterback Patrick O'Keefe threw touchdowns to senior Nolan Lewellen and junior Connor Pope, and Lewellen added another on the ground, but ODA had two of their extra point attempts blocked, a fact which later would haunt them.
Up 19-6 in the fourth quarter, a tipped ODA pass was intercepted by Bishop Snyder and returned for a touchdown. That cut ODA's lead to 19-13. The Cardinals then attempted an onside kick, which they recovered. On the ensuing possession, a roughing the passer penalty on fourth down kept Bishop Snyder's drive alive. They would take advantage, with quarterback Ijohn Richardson scrambling for a score, putting the Cardinals up 20-19.
ODA would get two possessions to retake the lead. The first ended on a fourth-down sack after multiple dropped passes. The second, which came with 6.5 seconds left and in Bishop Snyder territory, ended with a field goal attempt. The kick was short, but the officiating crew called Bishop Snyder for a roughing the kicker penalty that would have given ODA one more play from the red zone — before waving off the penalty after a discussion.
"That was a tough one," ODA Coach K.B. Belton said. "We played a great game. We gave ourselves a chance to win it at the end. That's all you can ask."
ODA senior Nolan Lewellen called the loss the worst he has suffered, though he added he is proud of his team for battling the way it did this season. After going 0-4 in the regular season and losing starting quarterback Tyler Beasley to injury, the Thunder never gave up, winning two playoff games to reach this point.