Eagles, Chargers square off for annual ‘Battle’
By Rick Pedone
The seventh “Battle of the Boulevard” takes place Friday at 7:30 p.m. when Poinciana visits Liberty.
The Chargers, 2-7, have won all six of the games between the teams, something that Poinciana, 4-5, is determined to fix.
In a new twist for the series, both teams will wear their home uniforms in the first, “All Color” game.
“This is a big game for these kids. They all know each other; the Liberty kids came from this school,” Eagles Coach Jeff Mathis said. “We wanted to do something to show how special this game is, to build up this rivalry.”
Liberty had an open date last week.
Poinciana lost its bid to earn a playoff spot after losing, 34-15, to Auburndale in a 5A-10 district game that determined the runner-up spot and a regional berth.
“Like I told the kids, if you want to get into the playoffs, you have to earn it,” Mathis said. “We didn’t play well enough. We had too many mistakes, too many turnovers.”
For the first six minutes of the game, the Eagles looked like the team that would go to the postseason, building a 9-0 lead in the first quarter.
But, Auburndale, 3-6, spoiled the party by scoring 27 unanswered points.
“I thought our team was certainly good enough to win, but the bottom line is Auburndale earned it and we didn’t,” Mathis said.
Eagle quarterback Jonathan Lindstrom hit Joshua Lopez for a 60-yard scoring strike on the second play from scrimmage.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Eagles forced a fumble and Darian Dickson recovered on the Bloodhounds’ 40-yard line. Lindstrom then completed a 38-yard pass to Dickson to the 2-yard line, but the Eagles settled for a field goal and a 9-0 lead.
The Eagles got a quick stop on defense, but their next possession ended in a short 15-yard punt that was returned 20 yards to set up Auburndale at the Eagle 25-yard line. QB Tyler Wilkerson capped a five-play drive with a 1-yard run on 4th down to close the gap to 9-7.
Auburndale got the ball back on a fumble five plays later and running back Artavis Pearle gave the Hounds the lead for good on a 17-yard touchdown run. On the drive, Pearle carried the ball four straight times for 54 yards.
The Eagles had a chance to get back into the game before halftime. Taking over on the 30 with less than two minutes to go, Lindstrom hit Lopez on a 34-yard pass and run and then ripped off 26 yards on a keeper to get Poinciana down to the Auburndale 10-yard line.
A 5-yard completion to Lopez set up a third and goal from the 5, but a turnover ended the threat.
“The game was lost in the second quarter,” Mathis said. “They started blitzing us heavily and we had a really hard time picking it up. On offense, Auburndale runs a Wing-T and although it is a pretty simple offense to run, it’s difficult to prepare for. You have to stay disciplined in your gaps and we just over-ran a lot of plays and opened up big holes for their backs.”
Lindstrom, who completed 12 of 29 passes for 213 yards, capped the Eagles scoring with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Lopez at the 8:13 mark of the fourth quarter to make it 27-15.
The Eagles got a defensive stop with 2:55 remaining, but any chance of a miracle comeback quickly ended when Auburndale’s Tarren Marsielle jumped a bubble screen and returned it seven yards for a touchdown and the 34-15 final.
Lindstrom, with 1,843 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, can be the first county quarterback to surpass 2,000 yards since Liberty’s Terrell Bonds (2,007) did it in 2011.
Chargers quarterback Patrick Knight (941 yards passing) can surpass 1,000 yards for the season Friday.
J. Daniel Pearson contributed to this story.