LAND O’LAKES — Fans clad in pink and splattered with paint crowded at the front of the student section. They began to sing a garbled chant, arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders. That they couldn’t be understood didn’t matter. Their team was still a playoff contender.
The Seahawks defeated Land O’Lakes in overtime 28-21 to replace the Gators as runnerup in 6A-6 and hand Land O’Lakes (6-1, 1-1) its first loss of the season.
Sunlake coach Bill Browning seemed a little dazed as he reflected on the battle between in-city rivals.
“Land O’Lakes played their hearts out, we played our hearts out,” he said.
A combination of Gators penalties and the Seahawks’ rushing game, led by Nathan Johnson fueled the victory.
The Seahawks (7-1, 2-1) scored first with 1:21 remaining in the first quarter. After a series of penalties Sunlake converted on third and goal as Johnson rushed in from a yard out. The point after kept Sunlake ahead until the last minutes of the half.
Land O’Lakes tied the game right before halftime on a 10-yard pass from quarterback James Pensyl to Stefan Zapata.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Seahawks had a 31-yard field-goal attempt in the fourth that Land O’Lakes’ Noah Randall blocked and returned 56 yards.
The Gators’ next play was a 5-yard touchdown pass from Pensyl to Liam Heaney.
Sunlake tied it on its next play. A 40-yard pass and three 15-yard penalties called Land O’Lakes put the Seahawks at the 1-yard line again, and Johnson found the end zone on the third down.
The rest of the quarter followed the pattern the teams had set so far: Pensyl threw another touchdown. Johnson rushed for another score.
The teams were tied at 21 with 2:30 remaining.
Browning said neither side gave up at any point in the game, which became apparent as the final minutes wound down. The Gators’ Deionte Strozier intercepted a Seahawks pass but Land O’Lakes was unable to convert a first down on the next drive.
The Seahawks ran down the clock, taking it into overtime.
Land O’Lakes won the coin flip and chose to start on defense. A 5-yard penalty put the Seahawks at the 5-yard line, and Johnson rushed for his third touchdown of the night.
Pensyl attempted four passes on the next drive completing none. Sunlake’s Joe Jean-Baptiste jumped and swatted the fourth out of the air, landing on his feet and pumping his fists as he realized the game was over.
“It was just a great high school game,” Browning said.