It's no secret what the 2012 Land O' Lakes Gators and Sunlake Seahawks like to do. The Gators average over 100 yards per game, on the ground. The Seahawks average over 230 yards per game on the ground. This game was going to be a bruising trench battle. It was just that.
The Gators led off, pounding away with senior running back Harrison Wood. Wood carries five times for 25 yards on the drive but it stalled. Sunlake answered with a characteristic dose of senior quarterback Josh Zifer right at you and senior athlete Eddie Burgos going inside and outside. Burgos broke a 28-yard run on the opening drive and Zifer scored on a 10-yard run for the only touchdown until the final minutes of the game. The Seahawks even went for the two-point conversion and got it.
Despite 13 penalties the Sunlake defense limited the Gators to just over 200 yards of offense. The Gators converted a 32-yard field goal by junior Andrew Dowler on their next possession but then were quiet until the third quarter.
To open the second half, the Gators came on strong, pounding away with Wood. Wood hit a 47-yard run on a 71-yard Gator drive. The Gators edged closer with a 33-yard field goal from Dowler.
"We made some adjustments at halftime and the line was able to open up some holes," Wood said.
The long, run-heavy drives bled the clock down and both teams only saw the ball twice in the third quarter. On Sunlake's third possession of the half they flatly refused to give the ball back. They embarked on a 12-play drive that devoured the last of the third and most of the fourth quarter. On the drive, Sunlake converted four third downs and even pulled off a fake punt on fourth-and-five.
"We came here to win and yeah we hoped we might pull a rabbit out of a hat," Seahawk head coach Bill Browning said.
The drive resulted in an interception by sophomore defensive back Larenz Scroggins but the damage had been done. The Gators got the ball back with barely five minutes left but went three-and-out. Sunlake added a field goal on their next drive to bleed the clock down to just a couple minutes. With an 11-6 deficit the Gators had to go for it on fourth down, deep in their own end and sophomore full back Will Alvarez sacked Gator sophomore quarterback James Pensyl. That effectively ended the game but Alvarez would actually score on the ensuing possession for Sunlake. The lead jumped out to 18-6. The Gators got a few first downs running a hurry up offense as seconds wound down but they stalled just into Sunlake territory and Sunlake just knelt on it to end the game.
"Josh Zifer played a whale of a game, coming off a tough district loss," Browning said.
Zifer toted the rock 22 times for 98 yards, the hard way. Burgos carried 15 times for 93 yards and Wood carried 21 times for a game high 135 yards. The late touchdown skewed what was otherwise a very tight game.