Wildcats run past Red Devils

AVON PARK - Hardee used a potent rushing attack and an accurate passing game to whip Avon Park by a score of 54-0 on Friday night at Joe Franza Stadium. The win improved the Class 5A Wildcats to 5-1, while the loss dropped the Class 4A Red Devils to 0-7. "We got taken behind the wood shed and beaten by a good football team," said Avon Park first-year coach Wade Jackson. "We played with a lot of effort, but we made mistakes and Hardee took advantage of them. "We have all the respect in the world for Hardee and they're probably the best team we'll face all season."
Avon Park moved the ball down the field on its first possession as quarterback Alfred Brown found some running room and connected with wide receiver Josh Jones for a 38-yard pass play. A nifty run by the elusive Brown gave the Red Devils a first down at the Hardee 11. But the Wildcat defense stiffened and a 30-yard field goal was blocked to end the scoring threat. "That's kind of been our problem this season," said Jackson. "We take one step forward and two steps back and we have to take advantage of our scoring opportunities when they come." Hardee moved down the field as running back Keyonte Holley ripped off a pair of big runs and tailback Timmy Steedley capped the drive by crashing in from a yard out. The extra point gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead with 5:50 left in the first quarter. Avon Park turned the ball over on its next possession as Brown's pass was intercepted at the Red Devil 42. An eight-play scoring drive was capped by quarterback Kris Johnson's 5-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Bethea. The point after made it 14-0. The Red Devils were forced to punt after three plays and Hardee took over at the Avon Park 40. Johnson found wide receiver Tristen Lanier for a 35-yard pass play and Johnson ran a bootleg in for a 5-yard touchdown. The extra point put the Wildcats on top by a score of 21-0 with 10:53 left in the second quarter. Avon Park fumbled the kickoff and Hardee took possession at the Red Devil 48. Johnson ended the drive with a pass to Bethea for a 10-yard strike in the right corner of the end zone for a 28-0 lead. The physical and fast Wildcat defense continued to swarm all over the Red Devils and forced another punt. Hardee tallied another score as Holley bulled his way in for a touchdown from six yards out for a 35-0 lead at the half. "I'm proud of the effort our kids played with," Jackson said. "We just got beat by a much better football team." Hardee's Jerry Browdy had the play of the game as the junior fullback broke tackle after tackle on his way to a spectacular 96-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter. Browdy started out down the left sideline, cut back toward the middle of the field and eventually scored with a convoy of blockers to make it 41-0. Hardee substituted liberally in the second half, which used a running clock, and tacked on a pair of touchdowns for the final score of 54-0. "We're going to bring some kids up from the junior varsity for next week's district game against LaBelle," Jackson said. "We've played a murderous schedule and now we play a couple of teams that I feel we can compete with. "As crazy as it may seem, if we beat LaBelle and Lake Placid we could make the state playoffs." Avon Park hosts LaBelle on Friday night in a Class 4A-District 6 game before having its bye week. The Red Devils are at district rival Lake Placid on Nov. 1. "We have to get better if we want to make something happen this season," Jackson said. "This is a good group of kids and we're going to come out and play hard against LaBelle and see what happens." mpinson@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5837