LAND O’LAKES — With its first playoff appearance already clinched, Sunlake used Thursday night’s 54-7 win over Gulf as a chance to fine-tune its weaknesses heading into next week’s showdown at Ocala Vanguard.
“Fortunately we got in those situations we needed to work on,” Seahawks coach Bill Browning said.
Sunlake (9-1) improved its hurry-up offense and kicking game during a senior night victory that secured the best record in school history. The Seahawks opened the game with a four-play, 69-yard drive, capped off with a 1-yard touchdown run by Jerome Samuels.
Rashaud Daniels added a 75-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter before Gulf (2-8) battled back. Quarterback Chris Klyap hit Brennan Smiley for a 26-yard touchdown pass that cut the deficit to 14-7.
Gulf had a chance to seize momentum when Smiley dove for an interception early in the second quarter, but Daniels picked off the Buccaneers on the next play. That set up a 3-yard touchdown rush by Mike Lopez.
Sunlake finished a 323-yard, 41-point first half by focusing on hurry-up execution. After the Seahawks took over at the Gulf 10 with less than a minute before halftime, quarterback Cameron Stoltz fired a 9-yard touchdown to Jamal Jones with two seconds left before the buzzer.
“We weren’t looking too good, but we made plays when we had to,” said Jones, who also had a 65-yard touchdown catch.
The second half gave Sunlake time to focus on its kicking game. The Seahawks had made only one field goal all season before Connor Spencer booted a 44-yarder and 28-yarder in the final two quarters.
“We just wanted to get our minds right and fix a few things that we had a problem with,” said Daniels, who rushed for 140 yards and two scores.
The Seahawks accomplished those goals and something even more important — they emerged injury-free heading into the biggest game in program history.