ZEPHYRHILLS — With time winding down Friday night, Sunlake’s defense needed one more stop to secure a victory against Zephyrhills.
After a penalty and a two incomplete passes, the Bulldogs (7-3) were forced to go to the air once more on third and 12 with less than two minutes to play. Backup quarterback Justin Swanstrom rolled to his left and threw a strike to receiver Jaylen Pickett.
But Sunlake defensive back Ricardo Williams was waiting.
The junior stopped Pickett with a bone-crushing hit and ended any hope of a last-minute comeback as the Seahawks (9-1) held on for a 19-14 win in their final game before next week’s playoff opener at Gainesville.
“So much was rushing into me,” Williams said. “It came so fast and I came up with the big play.”
Despite giving up an early 22-yard touchdown run to Pickett, Sunlake dominated Zephyrhills, holding the Bulldogs to 43 yards in the first half.
Offensively, the Seahawks were just as strong. In the second quarter, quarterback Esteban LeWallen put Sunlake on the board with an 8-yard pass to Ryan Reiss. Chris Wilkinson then added a pair field goals to give the Seahawks a 12-7 halftime lead.
LeWallen continued his air assault on the first play of the third quarter, hitting Wanya Lamar with a 70-yard dart to extend Sunlake’s lead to 12.
Zephyrhills climbed back in the fourth, though, as quarterback Ty Tanner hit Devin Brockington for a 3-yard touchdown. But it wasn’t enough.
“This win is big,” Sunlake coach Bill Browning said. “Now, we’re looking forward to the challenge of playing Gainesville.”