ALACHUA — Trailing midway through the fourth quarter Friday night, Suwannee High’s starting quarterback was banged up on the sideline and the Bulldogs’ offense had barely had the ball the entire second half.
Needing a drive, needing a play, SHS coach Kyler Hall didn’t overthink things.
“It’s not so much what to call, it’s who to get the ball to,” Hall said. “Put the ball in your playmakers’ hands and freaking Jaquez Moore…he wants to be the guy so we just kind of put it on his shoulders.”
And when called upon, Moore delivered. As he did the entire night.
Behind Moore, a junior, the Bulldogs drove the length of the field and then after one final stop escaped Raider Field with a 30-23 win against Santa Fe.
And in the process, the Bulldogs secured the 500th win in program history since 1927.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling because of all the great people that have come before us and laid the foundation,” Hall said about the milestone win. “For years, people have put their blood, sweat and tears and built this program and built Suwannee.
“We talked about it before the game that this was a big game because Suwannee was in it. Suwannee football is a big deal.”
To close that big win, Suwannee (2-0) needed every bit of Friday night’s game and every play that Moore could deliver.
Prior to powering the Bulldogs’ last drive, Moore twice delivered when Suwannee needed him.
Tied at 7 after the first quarter — Suwannee capped a nine-play game-opening drive with a 1-yard Tyree Taylor score only to have Santa Fe score one play later on a 79-yard Deon Reid run — Moore delivered on a third-and-short run. Stiff-arming a defender around the 25 yard line, Moore scored from 55 yards out to put Suwannee back in front. He finished with a team-high 120 yards on 12 carries.
After the Raiders (1-1) took their first lead late in the third quarter on a 30-yard RJ Boone field goal, Moore again answered for Suwannee.
Sensing the Bulldogs needed a spark, Moore turned to SHS assistant coach Ricky Hufty and said it was time for a big return.
Prophetic, Moore took the ensuing kickoff at the Santa Fe 10 run blazed through the Raiders for a 90-yard touchdown. Following a Taylor 2-point run, the Bulldogs led 22-16 with 1:56 left in the third.
“We’ve got this saying, ‘I’ve got my brothers’ back.’ My brothers on the sideline were looking up to me, ‘Quez you’ve got to do something, you’ve got to make a play, you’ve got to spark this game,” Moore said.
“Santa Fe wasn’t expecting it. I went up to coach Hufty and told him it was time. I said, ‘Big return time.’
“That changed the momentum of the game. That was a game-changer.”
Santa Fe answered right back. Two plays after Darrius Powell, who had a game-high 124 yards on 15 carries, broke off a 39-yard run, Jeremiah Crews hit Reid for an 11-yard pass to put the Raiders back on top 23-22 with less than a minute left in the third. It was the second touchdown pass from Crews to Reid.
Three drives later, the Bulldogs turned to Moore again with help from DeMarius Thompson and Antonio White. Relying on its rushing attack and offensive line, Suwannee went 45 yards in 10 plays and four minutes. Moore carried five times for 31 yards, including for five yards on fourth-and-2 and then 17 yards to reach the Santa Fe 1. Two plays later, White dived in from the 5 to put the Bulldogs back in front.
“Coach Hall just looked over at me and he was like, ‘You’ve got this. It’s your time, you’ve got to put the team on your back,’” Moore said about filling in at quarterback for Taylor on the Bulldogs’ last drive.
After Santa Fe moved right back into Suwannee territory with a 16-yard pass to Reid on fourth-and-15, the Bulldogs’ defense stepped up one more time with Wesley Jones intercepting the Raiders’ last-ditch Hail Mary.
“We couldn’t let our town down,” Thompson said. “We’re in the business of protecting our town.
“We all pitched in and played our part.”
Hamilton County will visit Langford Stadium for Suwannee's home opener next Friday. The Trojans are 0-2 after falling 21-7 to Fort White at home Friday night.