In the first quarter, DP jumped on the Patriots quickly, scoring on their first two possessions. After the defense stopped Freedom on fourth down, Trey Griffey hauled in passes of 12 and 19 yards and Nick Patti's 34-yard touchdown run put the Panthers up 7-0 at the 8:27 mark. Freedom was forced to punt on their next possession and the Panthers went right back to work. A third down completion to Zach Autiello for 17 yards and a 16-yard run by Eric Harrell drove DP inside the five before Patti eluded the pass rush and cut through the right corner of the end zone for a four-yard score and a 14-0 lead. Things were looking good early, but Freedom got it going offensively on their ensuing possession with an 80-yard touchdown drive to halve the deficit, 14-7. Midway through the second quarter, DP capped a 63-yard drive in just 1:19 when Deionte Gaines took a reverse 48 yards and Griffey snared a seven-yard touchdown catch for a 21-7 lead. The Panthers turned the ball over with 3:36 left in the half and Freedom capitalized with a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run as time expired for a 21-14 DP lead at the break.
The second half rivaled the excitement of the 2009 Apopka-Dr. Phillips playoff game with back and forth scoring. From their own 46, Eric Harrell's 26-yard run set up the Panthers at the Freedom 28 and three plays later, Griffey hauled in his second score of the night, a ten-yard pass from Patti, to give DP a 28-14 lead. Freedom responded again with the first of three straight scoring possessions, an 11-play, 66-yard drive to make it 28-21 with 6:13 left in the third quarter. On the Panthers' ensuing possession, Isaiah Johnson returned the kickoff 19 yards to the DP 38 and followed up with a 16-yard catch to the Freedom 44. Patti then hit Trey Griffey near the sideline and the senior broke two tackles and streaked down the sideline for a 44-yard touchdown, his longest of the season, for a 35-21 lead. The Patriots, who passed for 359 yards, took just three plays to counterpunch with a 63-yard touchdown pass to cut the margin to 35-28 with 4:24 left in the third quarter. The Panthers found themselves in trouble on their next possession, starting at their own five yard line, but were able to drive to the Freedom 22 before turning the ball over on downs. Freedom took advantage of the opportunity, with a 10-play, 78-yard scoring drive that tied the game at 35-35 in the early stages of the fourth quarter. DP wouldn't fold, however. Deionte Gaines' 50-yard kickoff return to the Freedom 30 ignited the offense and Isaiah Johnson put DP on top again with a 12-yard touchdown reception for a 42-35 lead with 9:09 to go. Freedom gambled on fourth down near midfield on their next possession but the Panther defense came up with a sack and the offense took over at the DP 44. With 5:22 left in regulation, Patti found Griffey on a screen and the senior followed a block, cut up the middle of the field and scored from 40 yards out for his fourth touchdown of the night. More importantly, DP built a 49-35 lead, but the Patriots would show no sign of surrender. Using only 1:29 off the clock, Freedom drove 80 yards in just seven plays to slice the deficit to 49-42 with 3:53 left. Freedom attempted an onside kick but the the ball was recovered by Eric Harrell at midfield and the junior came up big four plays later with a 24-yard touchdown run to ice the victory, 56-42. While not a great game for those appreciating defensive battles, the game certainly lived up to its billing as a battle of the area's most explosive offenses and was undoubtedly a great show for all that attended.
Dr. Phillips will now get a well-deserved week off before the Class 8A playoffs begin Friday, November 18th, when they'll host Tampa Wharton, one of the hottest teams on the west coast. Wharton started off their season 1-4 but has won four straight games, including a convincing victory Friday over favored Tampa Alonso, to earn the District Runner-Up. Tickets for the Regional Quarterfinal game will be $8.00 each and only State Series passes will be accepted for admission.