LAND O'LAKES — Despite missing the playoffs for the first time since 1996, Land O'Lakes finished its season with a convincing 32-12 victory over Wesley Chapel on Thursday night.
"I am very happy. The seniors went out on a winning note tonight and finished the season 7-3. They absolutely played their butts off tonight. It was a great win," Gators first-year coach Brian Wachtel said.
After scoring consecutive touchdowns off a 45-yard run by Nico Watts and a 2-yard run by Ryan Bird, Land O'Lakes battled penalties and turnovers on both sides of the ball. However, with a missed field goal and multiple wasted opportunities by the Wildcats, the Gators were able to cash in another touchdown with a 7-yard run by Harrison Wood to stretch their lead to 19 heading into the half.
"I am so proud of everything these guys did, but there is no doubt it was tough as well," Wachtel said.
Wesley Chapel got its first points on the board after putting a six-series drive together and freshman quarterback Ty Tanner running in a 13-yard touchdown early in the third.
The Wildcats' other score came from an 80-yard punt return by Tanner's older brother, Keegan. Wesley Chapel finished with 202 rushing yards on 29 carries.
Gators' TE and University of Florida commit, Kent Taylor caught 6 of 7 passes and ended his last high school football career with a 14-yard touchdown pass from fellow senior Bird late in the fourth. Bird threw for 160 yards on 26 attempts and one touchdown.
"These (seniors) were great. They were special. I came in as the (new) head coach, they embraced what we wanted them to do. They absolutely fought every week and encompassed everything we wanted to do this year," Wachtel said.