ORLANDO — Admiral Farragut junior running back Todd Macon sat on the 45-yard line of the Citrus Bowl, arms around his knees as he watched the North Florida Christian seniors hoist the Class 2A championship trophy. Macon said nothing, but his blank stare said it all:
“How could this happen?”
In the biggest game of their young lives, the first state championship appearance in school history, the Blue Jackets were blown out 69-0 Friday.
NFC had 467 yards of total offense and scored on 10 of 11 possessions. The Blue Jackets had 121 yards of total offense and didn’t score. There is no way to crunch the numbers and make it look good. It was an ugly loss to end the best season AFA (12-2) has ever had.
“(The Eagles) came out like you’re supposed to come out,” Macon said. “When you come out flat, that’s what happens. We weren’t expecting that, but they punched us in the mouth on the first play of the game. Some of us laid down and some of us didn’t. Next year, there won’t be any laying down. …We’ll be the best team in the state next year.”
Until then, the Blue Jackets will have to try to forget about their longest Friday afternoon. Their first drive only gained 4 yards. Six plays later, NFC was in the end zone. The next drive lost a yard. Six plays later, NFC was in the end zone again.
The next drive lost 16 yards. Six plays later, NFC was in the end zone. Again.
“Going down 21-0, you’re going to have some people doubting themselves,” AFA quarterback Colby Robinson said. “By the end of the game we picked it up a little bit. All we could do was keep fighting. My team will not give up. We are all brothers.”
After another Eagles’ scoring drive, and another, and another, and another, Admiral Farragut switched its mentality from trying to win to trying to save face. The flag planted behind the Blue Jacket’s bench before every game became their battle cry: “Don’t Give up the Ship.”
As bad as it was, AFA players vowed to play hard until the final second of the running clock.
“Our thought was, ‘Go out with heart,’ ” senior Rayshawn Jenkins said. “We didn’t quit. I’m proud of my team for that.”
It would have been easy to quit, especially after trailing 48-0 at halftime. Who wants to tackle a 225-pound fullback like Warren Hart when the outcome is already settled?
But AFA kept battling. Jenkins kept running hard. Backup quarterback Kyle Craichy kept scrambling for his life. The Blue Jackets even mounted a late scoring drive that had fans shouting “AFA! AFA!” But it ended on the 5-yard line with an incomplete pass as time ran out.
“They were getting physically pushed around,” coach Chris Miller said. “That’s hard when you’re being dominated like that. We took some pretty good shots. That wears you down emotionally.”
As the players received their consolation medals and took pictures, the scoreboard remained lit, a background reminder of a bad day.
“My boys over there, they never give up,” said Macon, trying to choke back the tears. “All season we worked harder than ever. I guarantee that. We’re the hardest-working team. We could have broken a long time ago but we stuck together.”