LAND O'LAKES — On a night when lightning played the villain, the quarterback won back some hearts.
It was just one quarter of preseason varsity football before Land O'Lakes and East Lake was canceled due to weather. Though the final score Thursday favored East Lake 14-7 thanks to a 14-0 lead set up by the JV, the Gators' varsity shut out the Eagles in the second quarter.
Back in a dark blue No. 5 jersey, taller and thicker than last season, was Stevie Weatherford guiding the Land O'Lakes offense for the third season.
Plenty has changed with first-year coach Matt Kitchie now in his ear instead of the iconic John Benedetto, who left last spring after 32 seasons. And after transferring to Tampa Catholic and back before taking a snap, Weatherford sounded relieved to be on familiar turf.
"It felt awesome just to come out," Weatherford said. "It felt awesome just to play."
Weatherford shined on the lone scoring drive, completing an 11-yard pass to Will Irwin then scrambling 20 yards to get to East Lake's 17-yard line. Three plays later, Weatherford rifled a pass to a leaping Alex Robinson as he broke into the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown.
Weatherford was 3-of-6 for 36 yards and a touchdown.
Other notables included Gators running back Tyler Peak, who rushed eight times for 47 yards, and the defense forced two interceptions collected by Wesley Moore and Darin Patmon.
East Lake combined for 38 yards rushing and never moved past the Gators' 35-yard line.
"We got a bunch of bad plays out so hopefully we're ready to go next week," East Lake coach Bob Hudson said.
Izzy Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 421-3886.