LAND O’LAKES — Before and after Eddie Burgos was named Sunlake’s homecoming king, the senior spent four quarters keeping the Seahawks’ hopes of a first district crown alive.
Burgos rushed for four touchdowns and snagged a late interception to help Sunlake rebound from last week’s distressing defeat with a 36-7 win over Mitchell on Friday night.
“He’s got it all,” Sunlake quarterback Josh Zifer said of Burgos. “He’s got the whole package.”
Burgos showed it early to lift a Seahawk team desperate for a victory. His 3-yard touchdown rush and two-point conversion with 7:14 left in the first quarter gave the Mustangs (4-1, 1-1) their largest deficit of the season.
On Mitchell’s next offensive possession, Burgos batted down a fourth-down pass to give Sunlake the ball back. The speedy running back/defensive back ended the ensuing drive with a bruising, 1-yard touchdown rush up the middle.
“I’ve said it all along — Eddie Burgos is a player,” Sunlake coach Bill Browning said.
After Mitchell cut the deficit to eight with a 6-yard rush by Ryan Marsh a minute into the second quarter, Burgos responded. He broke off a 25-yard rush, and Zifer added a 33-yard scramble to set up Burgos’ third touchdown of the night. He scored again on a 17-yard run in the fourth quarter and snared an interception at his own 23 late in the third quarter to preserve the victory.
“We knew what we had to get done,” said Burgos, who finished with 156 rushing yards.
Burgos had plenty of help in spoiling Mitchell’s shot at its first 5-0 start since 2009.
Despite a handful of injuries, the Seahawk offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage. Sunlake (3-1, 1-1) had only two rushes for negative yards. Zifer rushed for 139 yards and threw for 49, and Nathan Johnson — a fresh callup from the junior varsity team — powered 3 yards into the end zone in the fourth quarter for his first varsity TD.
Sunlake’s offensive outburst was especially impressive given the opponent. Mitchell had allowed only 19 points through four games. The Seahawks scored 22 in the first half. They racked up nearly as many rushing yards (340) as Mitchell’s first four opponents combined (399).
And the performance was also noteworthy based on Sunlake’s sluggish start to the year. Browning said his team sleepwalked through the second half in a 17-12 win over Wiregrass Ranch. The Seahawks — one of only two North Suncoast teams to win a playoff game last fall — did the same last week in a district-opening 13-7 loss to Springstead.
A loss to Mitchell would have given Sunlake an 0-2 start in district play and a possible but brutal path back to the postseason. Zifer said he cried after last week’s loss, and his teammates didn’t want to let themselves down again.
“They dug down deep, and it was gut-check time,” Browning said. “We answered the call.”
Burgos and his court have another to answer next week, against a Nature Coast team tied for first in the district.