Going into the showdown between Frostproof and Lakeland Christian — two teams fueled this season by big plays — the final result figured to boil down to which team made more of them on Friday night.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the answer was Frostproof. But barely. Ultimately it was as Frostproof won 33-29. , and had just stopped the Vikings on fourth down, taking over at the Lakeland Christian 47.
The Bulldogs opened the second half just as they did the first, by scoring on their first possession. Lakeland Christian tried an onside kick, but did not recover, and Frostproof started the drive at midfield. On a 2nd-and-15 from the 40, Frostproof QB Xavier Gaines found Kijana Gaines at the 2-yard line. A play later, Cecil Cherry burst up the middle for the score. The two-point conversion failed, however, and the Bulldogs trailed 21-19 with 9:23 to go in the third quarter.
Sixty four seconds later, Frostproof had the lead.
Cherry intercepted a Christian Alexander pass and the Frostproof offense had the ball at the Viking 23. From there, Trevis Herrington danced his way through the visitor’s defense all the way to the endzone and a 26-21 Bulldog lead with 8:13 still to play in the third quarter.
The Vikings retook the lead before the end of the third, driving 84 yards, aided in large part by both a personal foul and an unsportsmanlike penalty against Frostproof on the same play. Rafeal Pressley went off right tackle from seven yards away for the score. With a successful two point conversion, Lakeland Christian led 29-26 with 1:47 to play in the third quarter.
After an exchange of possession left Frostproof with a first down at their own four, they retook the lead moving 96 yards in just five plays. Kaleel Gaines kept the drive going with a 22-yard scamper on a 3rd-and-nine at the five, and two plays later, Major Plain got free in the Lakeland Christian secondary and hauled in a pretty pass from Xavier Gaines on a scoring play that covered 66 yards. Sebastian Avellenanda booted the extra point to give Frostproof a 33-29 lead with just over eight minutes to go.
The first half was no less wild.
If there was any doubt as to what was at stake, the game’s first 12 minutes proved that. Lakeland Christian ran two complicated flea flickers, Frostproof tried not one but two fake punts, there was an onside kick try, and there were touchdown plays of 63 and 40 yards. Both scoring plays came within the first four minutes of the game start.
The Bulldogs started the parade of points, more specifically Kaleel Gaines, who had all three carries on a 57-yard drive, the third of which covered 40 yards down the left sideline for six points. Avellenada kicked the extra point with the hosts lead 7-0 with 9:29 to play in the period.
But the Vikings had a quick answer, scoring 80 seconds later on a 63-yard pass play from Alexander to Jordan White that tied the game at 7-all.
Lakeland Christian took the lead in the final minute of the first, on a drive aided by a personal foul penalty against the Bulldogs that helped the visitors convert a 3rd-and-25, when Alexander, on his third try from in close, bullied his way just over the goal line on a QB keeper with 38.2 seconds to go for a 14-7 lead.
The Vikings added their third straight unanswered scored with 7:50 to go in the third quarter, this time marching 75 yards in 12 plays, converting a fourth-and-1 at the Frostproof 23 to keep the drive alive. Alexander, who came into the game having thrown 21 touchdowns on the season, found tight-end Phil Wilsman from 14 yards out for the score.
Frostproof, however, battled back with a nice drive of its own, 63 yards in 15 yards. The biggest play of the drive, a 25-yard scamper by Kaleel Gaines, was called back on a holding penalty, and the Bulldogs didn’t have a play of over nine yards in cutting the deficit to 21-13 right before intermission. The PAT attempt was no good.
Frostproof will conclude its regular season on the road next Friday with a non-league affair at Auburndale.
Last night’s winner will open the playoffs on the road at Clearwater Central Cathloic, winners in Class 3A, District 9. That game will be Friday, Nov. 16.
Last year, the Bulldogs earned a playoff spot by finishing second in the division in a three-way play-in tiebreaker with Cardinal Mooney and Lakeland Christian. Frostproof defeated Mooney, and then Lakeland Christian in successive playoff quarters to earn the district’s second playoff spot behind Fort Meade.
However, the Bulldogs were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season.