Two games stand between the Horace O’Bryant football team and a second-consecutive undefeated season after claiming a 21-14 victory against Westminster Christian in the Bucs’ 2021 home debut on Saturday at the Key West High Back Yard.
“We were fortunate to get the win, but against a better team, or if things don’t quite bounce our way, we would end up with a loss,” said Buccaneers coach Dave Van Loon. “When you watch the film, if we don’t put the ball on the ground those times, the play is there and we get a touchdown, or if we don’t cut back into the grain of the defense and instead hit the corner, it’s a touchdown, so we maybe left four or five touchdowns on the field just because of simple timing mistakes that cost us big.”
Every play was critical in the quick-moving first half, as each team had only two possessions, but each scoring on one. HOB would reach the end zone via a 20-yard passing play from Xaiver Perez to Zentavius Carey for the first score of the game, but Westminster responded on its next drive, taking six and a half minutes off the clock and, after a two-point conversion, the Warriors were in front 8-7 with 3:38 remaining in the first half.
That would not be enough time to Horace O’Bryant to mount an attack, leaving Westminster in front by a point at the break, but on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Carey would carry the ball 53-yards to pay dirt. Still HOB, led by only five after the failed two-point conversion.
“I don’t know if their mindset just got better, but the conversation at halftime was about adjusting a few things, but really that they were beating themselves,” said Van Loon. “It wasn’t really the other team doing anything, but it was us.”
The Buccaneers figured out a way to stop the Warriors on defense as well, as Horace O’Bryant forced a punt and turnover on downs the next two Westminster possessions — but the Bucs’ offense fumbled on both of those ensuing drives to set up the next Warrior touchdown.
That would once again place HOB in a one-point disadvantage, this time with roughly five minutes to play in the game.
Horace O’Bryant would need only three minutes to score, as Carey reached pay dirt for the third time — the eventual go-ahead score coming with 2:07 showing on the game clock.
“To face some true adversity for the first time this year, we have been down before but not that last in the game, I’m glad they were able to fight through that and get the final score,” said Van Loon. “It’s not just a physical game, it’s a mental as well, and I don’t think the kids are satisfied with the game they played.
“We corrected some of the offensive line issues, but we still ended up putting the ball on the turf five times, and to beat a quality ball team we can’t do that,” the coach added.
Despite extending the win streak to 12 straight, Van Loon explained the Buccaneers are still not satisfied and were back to work on Monday in preparation for the final two contests of the season.
Up next, University School at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Key West High Back Yard, for what is slated as a doubleheader on the gridiron with the Sharks also bringing down their junior varsity to take on the Conchs at 5 p.m.
“It’s a brand-new coach, not only on our level, but also the JV and varsity, so it’s a whole new program,” said Van Loon, noting that the Sharks athletic director in Key West native Donny Preston. “They are trying to build the program from the ground up, and I think the varsity coach, like we are doing in Key West, is trying to build it on every level.”
Due to the unknown, Van Loon noted that the Bucs are practicing — offense on Monday and defense on Tuesday with a walk-through on Wednesday — what they expect to see from the Sharks and then adjusting as needed during the game.
“We were able to put in some new stuff against Westminster, because we had a couple of extra practice days and that was needed,” said Van Loon. “We were able to get some things accomplished and we are looking to put some new things in this week as well, because we have a two-game season ahead of us and we have to win both of them or, just like everyone else, it’s going to be a long offseason.”