LAKEWOOD RANCH -- In a season filled with injuries, transfers and position shuffling, it'd be easy for the Out-of-Door Academy Thunder to exit the regular season with a whimper.
Especially, when the club trailed by a lopsided score at halftime in Thursday's football finale.
Instead, the Thunder returned from the break as a rejuvenated group and proceeded to outplay visiting Tampa Cambridge for the final two periods of the game.
The Lancers still won the game, 56-21, but the no-quit attitude displayed by ODA (1-9) is what head
coach Brett Timmons was proud of following the final buzzer.
"I told them the seniors have 24 minutes left in their high school career (and) how are you going to finish?" Timmons said. "Don't worry about the scoreboard; don't worry about what it says. Just go out there and have some fun, and just play. And that's what they did. At the end of the season, it finally clicked."
A couple seniors, quarterback David Grain and wide receiver Jeremy Herrin, took Timmons' message to heart in playing key roles in the Thunder's three second-half touchdowns.
Grain started the scoring when he swept around the end for a 50-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.
Then on ODA's next possession, Grain found Herrin for a 12-yard score to cap a 12-play drive.
And in the fourth quarter, Grain connected with Herrin for a 64-yard pass play that set up Josh Lerner's 15-yard rumble to paydirt for ODA's third score in five possessions in the second half.
"David kind of epitomizes this whole team in the sense that a lot of the seniors, a lot of these guys, didn't think the season would go the way that it went," Timmons said. "These guys hung together. They stuck together, where it's easy to point fingers and do your own thing. They bonded together, and they weathered the storm. So David's play is indicative of everything we went through. It's a rebirth of the program in that our guys, sometimes you have to kiss some frogs before you become a prince."
Prior to halftime, ODA's offense generated just 25 yards of total offense before finishing with 101 rushing yards and 126 passing yards for the game.
A big reason for those numbers was Grain's performance.
"When you're a senior, you can't go out as your last game getting shut out," said Grain, who tallied 58 rushing yards and 126 passing yards. "I just wanted to show my players that it doesn't matter how far you are into the season, you have to keep pushing. And push through adversity."
Grain entered the season as a wide receiver, but the transfer of Nate Strawderman to Lakewood Ranch and Jimmy Kuebler's decision to focus on baseball ultimately contributed to the southpaw's switch from wide out to signal caller.
"It was definitely tough to adjust to being a first-year quarterback," Grain said. "I've never played it before. It's great coming out being able to control the ball and control plays. It was a fun experience, and it really built character. It was a blessing in some respect. It really helped build my leadership skills."
Meanwhile, Cambridge quarterback Garrett Young dismantled ODA's defense in the first two periods to arm the Lancers with an insurmountable 42-0 halftime lead.
Young finished 8 of 13 for 229 passing yards with three touchdown passes. He also added an 8-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter.
Cambridge found the end zone on five of its six first-half possessions, while getting a punt block recovery for a touchdown as the other score.
ODA loses four seniors who were regular players, but returns a core group of freshman and sophomore heading into the spring.