The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind held visiting Kissimmee City of Life Christian to a season-low eight points.
Their offense is old-fashioned. The fundamentals, physicality and execution the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind showcased on Thursday night are timeless.
The Dragons improved to 4-0 after defeating Kissimmee City of Life Christian 40-8. FSDB scored touchdowns on three of its first five offensive plays to take control of the contest.
This year has been one of change for the Dragons football program. After 105 years of fielding 11-man football teams, the proud program transitioned to eight-man football. The move, as well as the return of Eric Lefors as head coach, has proven to be a devastating combination.
“It’s amazing,” said sophomore tailback Luis Merced, who opened the scoring with a 36-yard touchdown run. “Last year was frustrating. This year, I’ve learned a lot more, where to go, who to tackle and I know my plays by heart.”
Merced’s instincts are what changed the game.
FSDB led 28-8 with 12 seconds remaining in the first half. City of Life Christian had the football at the Dragons 14 yard line and in position to get within two scores of the Dragons.
The Warriors hoped to bait Merced into following a shallow route and throwing the ball over in — and between the Dragons’ two high safeties—for what should have been an easy touchdown. Instead, the visitors threw the ball short, Merced anticipated, jumped the route and returned it for a touchdown.
″(It was) my first time having an interception. I just went the other way,” Merced said. “I had a feeling they were going to run that play. I noticed the running back was going to go that way. The quarterback was eyeballing him the whole way. I got the ball and kept running.”
Merced’s pick-six was one of three touchdowns he scored Thursday. It may have been the biggest. City of Life Christian football coach Nathan Soriano said the interception was the defining moment in the game.
“What we rely on heavily is our offense and our offensive efficiency,” Soriano said. To see that at that moment was devastating.”
City of Life Christian (3-2) entered Thursday’s game averaging 61.5 points per game.
There may be more space to operate on an eight-man football field; but, the Warriors were one of the most potent eight-man offenses in Florida until they made the trek to Usina Field.
Soriano left St. Augustine with complete respect for the Dragons as well as their coaches. The first-year coach noted FSDB played much better and far harder than he observed on film.
“They are a phenomenally coached team,” Soriano said. “They are disciplined and well-prepared team. They will catch teams by surprise at how historic their offense is. I’m in their corner. I’m rooting for them.”
The Warriors will have time to follow the Dragons.
Thursday’s win clinched the Eastern Division title in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference’s 8-Man Premier League. Next month, the Sunshine State Athletic Conference will hold an eight-team tournament to determine the state’s eight-man state champion. FSDB is guaranteed a berth in the tournament and a top three seed.
The Dragons will play three more regular season games — against deaf schools from Tennessee, Louisiana and Alabama — looking to secure more additional home games in the SSAC playoffs.
Being in the hunt for a championship is not something LeFors envisioned when he began his second stint as the football coach earlier this year.
“Call me a bad coach, my expectations were not 4-0,” LeFors said. “I was thinking ‘don’t embarrass ourselves.’”
FSDB entered this season having won one game in three years. In 2019, the Dragons have won their four games by an average of 22 points.
One reason why the Dragons exceeded that average on Thursday night was the play of running back/linebacker Walter Douglas. The junior ran for 211 yards and two touchdowns on only 10 carries. He also recovered a fourth quarter fumble.
“It feels exciting and motivating. (I’m) enthusiastic,” Douglas said. “I just want more and more and more. It’s never over.”
FSDB 40, CITY OF LIFE CHRISTIAN 8
F: Luis Merced 36 yard run (Merced conversion run), 10:50
F: Walter Douglas 57 yard run (conversion failed), 6:37
F: Douglas 63 yard run (conversion failed), 3:43
C: Joshua Melendez 10 yard run (Brendon Frontanes pass to Melendez conversion), 7:51
F: Matthew Guillou 4 yard run (Merced conversion run), 0:33
F: Merced interception return (conversion failed), 0:00