EAST LAKE — Four quarters weren't enough Friday night at East Lake.
The Eagles went blow for blow with nationally ranked Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer but fell agonizingly short, losing their first-ever state semifinal 31-24 in overtime. Dwyer will now play Niceville next Friday night for the Class 7A state championship.
“That's what football's about right there,” said East Lake coach Bob Hudson. “Two teams giving it everything they got. We came out on the wrong end, but that was fantastic.”
Dwyer cornerback Shawann Lurry sealed the Panthers' victory when he jumped and picked East Lake quarterback Jake Hudson's third-down pass in overtime. The Panthers, who started the extra period with the ball, went up 31-24 with quarterback Daniel Parr's 3-yard run.
Parr led Dwyer's potent offense by completing 22 of 29 passes for 302 yards and two scores. The junior connected on his first 14 attempts spanning into the third quarter.
Coming into the night as an underdog for the first time all season, East Lake (13-1) and its high-energy crowd let Dwyer know intimidation by reputation was not going to be a factor.
The Eagles struck first Friday, going up 7-0 late in the opening quarter when star athlete Artavis Scott zipped around the left side for a 2-yard touchdown.
Though a non-factor receiving Friday, Scott rushed for 81 yards on 13 touches, threw a 65-yard score to George Campbell on a trick play and snatched a huge late-game interception.
“Big players make big plays in big games,” Coach Hudson said of Scott. “So that's what he did.”
The Clemson commit had plenty of company Friday night in terms of players turning in prime-time performances. The Eagles defense, led by the tenacious play of linebacker Carson Lydon, largely kept Dwyer's attack in check.
Scott's opening touchdown marked the beginning of what would turn into one of the best games ever played at East Lake High.
Dwyer and star recruit Johnnie Dixon flashed why they receive the accolades they do two plays into their ensuing drive. Parr hit Dixon deep down the right sideline for a 75-yard touchdown that tied the score at 7-7.
While Parr and Dwyer executed their impressive passing attack with efficiency Friday, East Lake bottled up the Panthers' ground game all night. Alonzo Smith rushed 19 times for 90 yards, but 32 of those came on a harmless carry with time running out in the first half. Dwyer did outgain East Lake for the night, 387-255.
The story of the middle two quarters was defense. The teams traded big stops and a field goal apiece over that 24-minute, halftime-bridging span.
Knotted up at 10-10 after three, Dwyer (14-0) appeared ready to begin pulling away.
Parr found Dixon for their second long sideline hookup to go ahead 17-10, but it was Jarrad Ward's pick-6 of Jake Hudson four minutes later that temporarily put the Eagles to the mat.
Dwyer fans, enjoying their two-score lead, began mockingly sending chants of, “We can't hear you,” across the field.
“You start getting a little worried there, let's be honest, but I was confident we wouldn't quit,” Coach Hudson said of falling behind.
Dazed but showing no readiness to give up, East Lake came back to life with a vengeance and the Panthers began to hear the Eagles loud and clear.
The Scott-to-Campbell 65-yard score on the Eagles' first offensive play from scrimmage following Ward's interception return reinvigorated the sideline and set off a raucous celebration in the stands that would soon be topped minutes later.
Scott capped a monster defensive stand on Dwyer's next series by picking off Parr near midfield and reaching the Panthers' 10-yard line. Prior to Scott's interception, Lydon smashed running back Alonzo Smith behind the line for a 3-yard loss on first down and Hunter Snyder swatted down Parr's second-down attempt at the line.
East Lake needed all four of its downs but succeeded in tying the score at 24-24 when Hudson found Devin Abraham over the middle on fourth-and-goal from the 11.
Neither team could move the ball with its final regulation possession and East Lake chose to defer after winning the overtime coin toss.
Parr snuck in on third down to put Dwyer on the board, making the best out of a busted play.
East Lake responded with a quarterback draw for a yard on first down and an incompletion on second. Facing third down from the 9, Lurry darted in front of Hudson's pass headed to senior Dillon Zettwuch in the front-right corner of the end zone.
“They're physical and they came out with a good game plan,” Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said of East Lake. “They pounded us, they know we have a bunch of guys going both ways and it's a shame any team had to lose this game.”
The Panthers' defense played a large role in Friday night's outcome, largely by limiting East Lake's ability to run the football. Senior Weston Fordham managed 34 of the Eagles' 117-yard rushing total on 12 carries. Outside of Scott's 65-yard touchdown toss, the East Lake passing attack struggled to get off the ground, as well. Jake Hudson finished six of 18 for 73 yards, a score and two interceptions.
The defeat ended the most successful season in East Lake football history and represented the final high school chapter of the program's most accomplished senior class.
“These seniors and what they've done over the course of four years…” Coach Hudson said, trailing off the thought. “They're out there every day in the grind and I love those kids.”
DHS - 7 – 3 – 0 – 14 – 7 --- 28
EL - 7 – 0 – 3 – 14 – 0 --- 31
EL – Scott 2-yard run. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 1st Quarter (1:17)
DHS – Dixon 75-yard pass from Parr. PAT kick (Shapiro) – 1st Quarter (0:32)
DHS – Shapiro 30-yard FG. – 2nd Quarter (2:33)
EL – LaCamera 33-yard FG. – 3rd Quarter (4:58)
DHS – Dixon 37-yard pass from Parr. PAT kick (Shapiro) – 4th Quarter (10:53)
DHS – Ward 36-yard INT return. PAT kick (Shapiro) – 4th Quarter (6:48)
EL – Campbell 65-yard pass from Scott. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 4th Quarter (6:37)
EL – Abraham 11-yard pass from Hudson. PAT kick (LaCamera) – 4th Quarter (3:59)
DHS – Parr 3-yard run. PAT kick (Shapiro) – OT
EL – Scott (13-81, TD), Fordham (12-34).
DHS – Parr (22-29 for 302, 2 TD, INT).
EL – Hudson (6-18 for 73, 1 TD, 2 INT), Scott (1-1 for 65, TD).
DHS – Dixon (4-125, 2 TD), Saffold (10-98), Hearns (2-28).
EL – Zettwuch (3-57), Campbell (1-65, TD), Abraham (1-11, TD).