Live Oak —
By Hunter Abercrombie
SHS athletic director
Following a successful 8-3 football campaign in the 2013 season, Suwannee High School head coach Jamie Rodgers knew he wanted to find a spring opponent that would give his Dogs a tough test. While anytime you put on a jersey you want to win, coach Rodgers was more interested in his team facing another proven squad to get a gauge of where they were. He got exactly what he wanted from the Florida High Seminoles, however, the Dogs proved to Rodgers that they were up for the challenge, winning the annual spring game by a score of 27-14.
While the starters for each squad played three quarters, which ended in a 14-14 tie, Suwannee’s backups dominated the fourth period, scoring twice to seal the win.
“It’s always good to come out on top, even though the game doesn’t count record wise,” said Rodgers. “I thought we did some things really well, and some things not so well. But that’s to be expected in the spring.”
One of the things Suwannee did very well was play special teams. Normally in the spring game, teams do not play special teams live. The kicker will usually kick to a returner, who will simply field the ball and have it blown dead. This year, however, Florida High told Rodgers they wanted to go full speed on special teams. It’s a decision they may have regretted after Aaron McAllister took the opening kickoff back 95 yards for a Bulldog touchdown. The upcoming junior caught the ball along the right hash, and brought it back across the field, going in virtually untouched to put the Dogs up, 7-0.
“That was a big shot in the arm,” said Rodgers. “We’re looking for a big year out of Aaron, and he showed Friday night what he’s capable of.”
After the return, Florida High took over on offense, led by quarterback Ronnie Harrison Jr. Harrison, a University of North Carolina commit, found himself in a third and 11 situation early, but completed a 56 yard pass to Andres DeTorres for a first down at the Suwannee 25 yard line. Five plays later, Harrison scampered 11 yards to put Florida High on the board. The ensuing extra point was missed, keeping Suwannee in the lead, 7-6.
Both teams would struggle to find an offensive rhythm for most of the first half, although Suwannee quarterback, Steven Anderson, did hook up with Jamari Wheeler for a couple of nice gains early. Right before the half, however, it was Florida High who was able to punch it in from a yard out to take the lead. Harrison completed a two point conversion pass to put Florida High in the lead, 14-7, going into the half.
The second half, however, would be all Suwannee! On the first possession of the third quarter, Suwannee safety Ty’reece Ford picked off a Harrison pass deep in Seminole territory. Two plays later, Denzel Washington scampered in from 22 yards out for a Bulldog touchdown. Trevor Ross tacked on the extra point, tying the game at 14-14.
Florida High drove deep into Bulldog territory towards the end of the third quarter, but the stingy Dog defense was able to hold, forcing a 35 yard field goal attempt that was blocked. That ended the game for both team’s starters.
Said Rodgers, “I thought to hold their offense to 14 points over three quarters was a win for our defense. Ronnie Harrison is a very, very talented football player, and I was pleased with how our guys stepped up to the challenge, especially late in the third quarter.”
On the second play of the fourth quarter, Suwannee running back Jerry Holliman took a handoff 47 yards to the house, giving Suwannee a 20-14 lead that would prove be the difference. Suwannee backup quarterback, Rhett Baldwin, would cap the scoring with a seven yard run late in the fourth quarter, creating the final margin of 27-14. Suwannee offensive coordinator, Josh Jacobson, was pleased with how his backups performed.
“I thought both Rhett Baldwin and Jerry Holliman played well, especially considering it was the first varsity action for both,” said Jacobson. “Overall, as an offense, I thought we were OK. Steven Anderson played well, and this game gives us a good indication of what we need to go to work on. The summer will be really big for us.”
While official stats were not kept, Washington gained around 50 yards on the ground, while Holliman led the Dogs in yardage with 72 on six carries. With the spring game now behind them, the Dogs will concentrate on summer workouts and conditioning. Rodgers said the work put in this summer will determine how the Dogs fare in 2014.
“I can’t describe how important this summer is for us,” said Rodgers. “If our kids get in the weight room and go to work like I believe they will, we could have a special season.”