Harmony denied playoffs Lions are in regions after blitzing Horns
By Rick Pedone
Harmony’s bid for a Class 7A regional playoff berth was buried beneath a hail of touchdown passes – six – from Lake Nona quarterback Tucker Israel, who accounted for all eight touchdowns as the Lions raced past the Longhorns, 56-7, at Harmony last week.
The Longhorns, 5-4, conclude the regular season Friday at 7 p.m. at Eau Gallie.
The Commodores, 6-3, are playoff bound as Class 6A district runners-up, but they were upset by previously winless Cocoa Beach, 19-14, last week.
Harmony, with five victories, is bowl eligible, but Coach Jerrad Butler said the team will not pursue that option.
“No, this is it,” Butler said. “We want to have a great game and see our seniors go out on a good note.”
The Longhorns simply were unable to contain Lake Nona’s passing game. Israel, who ran for two touchdowns, was 25-for-32 for 493 yards. His favorite target, FSU-bound receiver Ryan Sousa, had 12 catches for 275 yards and four touchdowns as the Lions built a 28-0 lead in the second quarter.
Lake Nona, 7-2 and 5-1 in 7A District 6, clinched the runner-up spot behind district champion Osceola. The Lions will go to Lakeland Kathleen for a regional quarterfinal Nov. 15. Kathleen beat Lakeland, 24-3, Friday for the 7A-5 championship.
Harmony, 4-2 in the district, was bidding for a second straight playoff berth after being the district runner-up last season.
The Longhorns’ cause wasn’t helped when one of the team’s top defenders, linebacker/safety Daishaun Grimes, injured his knee after practice Thursday.
Grimes played part of the game, but his mobility was hampered.
“That hurt. We had a lot of things built around him,” Longhorns defensive coordinator Brian Lambert said.
Butler said Grimes won’t play at Eau Gallie. He is the latest of several starters lost to injuries this year.
“We don’t make excuses. That happens,” Butler said. “It would have been nice to have him at full speed last week, but the fact is that we didn’t make enough plays. Our margin for error was very small, and we never could get to their quarterback because he gets rid of the ball so fast.”
Things started well for the home team when the Longhorns controlled the first 8:39 of the game, thanks to a strong running game featuring Artelle Blackwell (15-91). The Horns moved from their 25 to the Lions 12 before they failed to convert a fourth-and-8. A 15-yard penalty for a chop block hampered the Longhorns in the red zone.
“That was our plan. That’s what we had to do,” Butler said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to sustain it.”
It took Israel just two and a half minutes and seven plays to put the Lions up, 7-0, when he found Mehdi Elattrach on a slant pattern that resulted in a 57-yard touchdown play.
After the Horns punted, Israel and Elattrach teamed again for another TD play, this time from 35 yards.
Harmony got a break just before the half when a turnover was nullified by a penalty and Horns quarterback Jeremiah Murray (7-13-67) took advantage by finding Alexander Britton on a 9-yard TD pass with 4.8 seconds left, cutting the deficit to 28-7.
Lake Nona quickly put the game out of reach in the third quarter, driving 60 yards on six plays, capped by another Israel-Sousa TD connection from 18 yards.
After a Harmony turnover, Israel threw 43 yards to Sousa to the Horns’ 5, and two plays later Israel ran for his second score from the 2, making it 42-7. Sousa caught TD passes of 27 yards and 57 yards to wrap up the scoring.
Butler said that Eau Gallie, a 19-14 loser to previously winless Cocoa Beach last week, will play with more passion than he saw from the video of their game last week.
“They probably didn’t have as much of an effort for that game as we had seen from them earlier in the season,” Butler said. “I’ll expect them to play with a lot more intensity against us. We’re playing a good opponent this week. We’ll have to play our game and be ready to go.”