It took a bit longer than expected — two halves played in two nights due to a lightning postponement on Friday — but the season opener for defending independent state champion Saint Stephen’s was well worth the wait.
And on Saturday, the wait for the final outcome of a continued football game did not take long at all. The host Falcons came out firing on all cylinders with an explosive offense that scored 29 straight points in the third quarter. That led to a running clock in the fourth quarter of a 44-0 shutout of IMG Academy White, a first-year team with a separate roster from that school’s blue squad.
Saint Stephens, which led 12-0 at halftime when Friday’s game was halted, has a 12-game winning streak (playoffs included) that began after last year’s season-opening loss to Community School of Naples.
“For everyone who came it was just a football game, but for us it was a chance to play a 2017 football game,” Saint Stephen’s coach Tod Creneti said. “Leaving here (Friday) night was challenging, because our kids were in a positive mindset when they left. I think our kids did a tremendous job responding.”
The Falcons (1-0) got the scoring started quickly with Demetrius Davis catching a swing pass from quarterback Fred Billy in the left flat and outracing a handful of defenders down the left sideline for a 79-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage.
Three plays later, Ascenders (0-1) got a 26-yard completion from quarterback Bryson Lucero to Kevin Johnson over the middle, but defensive back Ryan Thompson stripped the ball from Johnson’s hands before both landed on the ground for a takeaway.
For Lucero, that was his second interception of the game. On Friday, Camden Vining picked off a Lucero pass and returned the ball 67 yards for a touchdown in the final minute of the first half.
Ryan’s strip set up the first of Billy’s two scoring runs, a 1-yard plunge into the end zone. Later in the quarter, Chase Brown reeled off a 55-yard touchdown run. Brown also scored Friday on a 49-yard run.
Once the Falcons took a 41-0 lead, a running clock was implemented for the fourth quarter and though the offense did not add another touchdown, Saint Stephen’s closed out the scoring on Morgan Horesh’s 26-yard field goal in the waning minutes.
▪ Clearwater Calvary Christian at Saint Stephen’s, 7 p.m. Friday
▪ St. Frances (Baltimore, Md.) at IMG Blue, 7 p.m. Friday
▪ IMG White at Orlando West Oaks, 7 p.m. Friday