Blue Darter Football is Back– With a Bang!

Hopes are high this season for the Blue Darters, who are in search of a 4th state title. Last season, the Darters boasted an 8-4 record, with all four losses being by less than a touchdown. In the playoffs, the Blue Darters fell 4 points short in the Semifinals to the eventual 8A champion, Seminole (Sanford). So far this year the Blue Darters have impressed, beating Winter Park and Dr. Phillips in their spring game and handing losses to Deland and in the regular season, to Colonial & West Orange. Our biggest threat? “Apopka” says Coach Joyner, meaning that we are the only ones who can stand in our way. Coaches are feeling better than they have years past about this year’s team. The Darters currently have a 2-0 regular season record, and MaxPreps ranks Apopka 21st in the state.

Apopka opened its season in its Kickoff Classic preseason game against the Deland Bulldogs at home. Apopka took advantage of a high snap from the Bulldogs’ punt squad to take the ball on the 12 yard line, where RB Keyondray Jones would convert into a touchdown the next play. After the Apopka defense shut down the Bulldogs to a 3 and out, Deland punted, to which Nikai Martinez took for a 37 yard touchdown return. A second extra point from Andrew Kennedy gave Apopka a 14-0 lead. Further on, Apopka capitalized on yet another special teams mistake, when #1 for the Bulldogs dropped a punt, to which Apopka gained possession of the ball. From this point on, the Blue Darters took a handle on the game, and the only points Deland were able to score was a Hail Mary attempt as time expired in the second quarter. Apopka went into the half with a 17-6 lead, which would become a 38-6 lead by the end of the game.

The next week, in their first regular season matchup of the seasonApopka would travel  to Colonial High to play the Grenadiers, a team down 10 starters due to COVID protocols. The Blue Darters had a strong showing,  taking its first regular season win over the Grenadiers, 47-0. QB Andrew Mcclain went 5/6 with 95 passing yards and 2 passing touchdowns and 1 rushing touchdown. Andrew McClain transferred to Apopka after playing for Seminole last year. When asked what effect this had on team chemistry, Coach Joyner said “It’s been very positive. McClain has been a great leader for us, and he’s shown that since the first day.” Other key players in the win against Colonial were Keyondray Jones, with a receiving and a rushing touchdown, Quincy Frazier with two receiving touchdowns, and on the defensive side of the ballTravion Jones with 2 forced fumbles, as well as Phillips, Watson, and Call with 3 tackles, and Roberts with 4. Since the Darters had such a large lead early in the game, the coaches started putting in backups and younger  players. Andrew HamreAthletic Director at Colonial High stated that “I have never seen such action taken in so many ways to show respect for our dilemma.” He also mentions that “…they have a program that wins but does things the right way.”

Games like this are very important to the team. The momentum gained is “good for everything,” and games like this allow younger players to get playing time, giving perfect opportunities to evaluate them. Coach Joyner notes that “the only way to see if someone can handle being under the lightsis to put them under the lights.” Coming off of back to back blowout wins will help boost the team’confidence going into the rest of the season. 

QB Andrew McClain breaking a tackle from a West Orange defender. Courtesy of Orlando Sentinel.

Apopka faced West Orange at home, on September 3rd, in FOX 35’s Football Friday Game of the Week. This matchup was very close last year, with Apopka losing 15-14 in OT in the regular season, but coming back in the playoffs to best the Warriors 18-9. This year, the Blue Darters won 13-0, in a tight defensive showdown that left both teams scoreless through the first half. This game is big win for Apopkabringing our record to 2-0, as well as showing that the Blue Darters are able to beat difficult teams. 

This week, on September 6th, 4 star CB Nikai Martinez announced he tore his Meniscus, for which he will be getting surgery on. This could see the UCF commit miss a large part or all of his senior season.

The remaining schedule for Apopka is as follows:

9/10 at 7:00 pm Apopka @ Dr. Phillips

9/17 at 7:00 pm Apopka @ Ocoee

9/24 at 7:00 pm Edgewater vs Apopka

10/1 at 7:00 pm Apopka @ Evans

10/8 at 7:00 pm Apopka @ Lakeland

10/15 at 7:00 pm West Port vs Apopka

10/28 at 7:00 pm Lake Brantley vs Apopka

11/5 at 7:00 pm Mayor’s Cup: Wekiva vs Apopka