Behind four touchdowns from senior quarterback Jeff Driskel, Hagerty beat Lake Howell 42-13 in a rescheduled game that was cancelled on Friday night due to thunderstorms. The victory pushes Hagerty (3-1, 1-0 5A-3) into a tie with Winter Springs for first in Class 5A-District 3.
“This was an important game for us, a district game,” Driskel said. “The season started today. Our goal was to get to 1-0 and we’d been emphasizing that and we did a good job executing all night.”
Driskel completed 6-of-10 passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for a 70-yard touchdown, one of six carries that resulted in 126 rushing yards for the senior.
The future Florida Gator got things started on the right foot for Hagerty from the first snap. Hagerty started their first offensive series at the 30 with Driskel under center and, on first down, he dropped back to pass and saw the entire defense shift to the right side of the field to cover his trips receivers.
“I think they were playing man coverage and they were playing strong over to our trips side,” Driskel said. “When they all went, I saw the open space and I took off.”
The over pursuit of the receivers by the Lake Howell defense left a wide-open secondary on the left side of the field and once Driskel maneuvered through the first level of the defense untouched, he was already on his way to a breezy 70-yard touchdown run. He added a one-yard run for a two-point conversion to make it 8-0.
“He’s always made really good decisions,” Hagerty coach Nate Gierke said. “But that’s an area of the game that he’s continued to improve on as he’s moved throughout his career here. When you’re a young quarterback you’re kind of a gunslinger, you throw the ball all over the place. He’s become better about making decisions.”
Lake Howell took possession and started to drive down the field quickly, only to have lightning stall the game for about an hour.
Once the teams returned, Lake Howell’s drive stalled. Hagerty took possession, but watched their own drive stall on two of Driskel’s four incomplete passes on the night.
“At first they were blitzing and they were creating some mismatches,” Driskel said. “But we shored that up after the first couple plays and the receivers made some plays down field.”
Hagerty would score by way of the pass on their next two drives. On the first of those two, Driskel led the Huskies on a six-play, 76-yard drive in which he ran for 35 yards on a carry, threw for 22 yards on two passes to Zach Haywood and Tyler Thrift and absorbed a late-hit that garnered a penalty to give the Huskies 15 more yards. He ended the drive with a13-yard fade to Thrift in the back of the end zone to make it 15-0.
After a three-and out by Lake Howell deep in their own territory, Hagerty got the ball back at midfield and once again Driskel needed only one play to make up the difference. After a run and an incomplete pass gained zero yards, the Huskies stood 3rd & 10 at the 50.
Driskel dropped back but was blitzed by multiple defenders. He was nearly dropped in the backfield but escaped the grasp of Lake Howell defender Daniel McCord and rolled right. Once out of harm’s way, Driskel saw a wide-open Haywood waving his hands and hit the senior receiver with a 50-yard bullet in the end zone on the fly for a score to make it 22-0.
Lake Howell finally broke through with a big pass play of their own when quarterback Michael McCoy hit receiver Keith Bush on a swing pass, only to have Bush line up and throw downfield to fellow receiver Mitchell Dawkins who caught the ball at the 10 and ran it in for a 44-yard touchdown. The extra point, also by Bush, made it 22-7.
Hagerty went three and out on its next possession and Gierke admitted he thought his team was letting up, but on the first play of Lake Howell’s ensuing drive, McCoy was intercepted by Riley Tarr, a pick Tarr returned to the 41.
“I thought it was the best game that our secondary has played,” Gierke said. “Last week, they didn’t have a great game against Seminole. Some guys were getting open. We really worked hard in our individual periods this week on improving technique and it showed out there. We got a couple interceptions, hadn’t had an interception all year long.
“When we came out after that lightning delay, we kind of went through the motions a little bit. I thought that play, followed by the touchdown pass really got us going and kept our momentum going.”
The ensuing touchdown took just one play as Driskel hit running back Treyous Jarrells in stride on a post over the middle and Jarrells sprinted to the end zone, his 41-yard touchdown making it 29-7 at halftime.
“That touchdown pass at the end of the half wasn’t designed,” Gierke said. “He checked off and saw nobody in the middle of the field and threw that post pattern to Treyous. It shows his maturity. It shows that he’s really taken some of the things that he’s done in the offseason, learning from some of the best quarterback coaches in the country and applied that into reading defenses. He’s getting better and better at that.”
Driskel finished the first half with 223 total yards and completed just one more pass in the game, a 34-yarder to tight end Hunter Boudreau, before being rested for most of the third and all of the fourth.
“The biggest thing is just to try and prevent injuries,” Gierke said. “With him, he’s a very important part of our team, as are most of the guys that play most of the time for us. We’ve been banged up for most of the year. For us to continue to move forward, if we do get more guys banged up, those guys that we play at the end of the game, we’re gonna have to get some mileage out of them.”
“It’s not really rest, it’s just about getting the other guys in,” Driskel added. “They work just as hard and they deserve their chance. They did a great job out there.”
SPLIT THE CARRIES
While Driskel was making hay in the passing game, Hagerty split up its carries between six different runners, not including Driskel, who tallied 98 yards on 25 carries.
The leader among them was junior Garrett Moon, who piled up 46 yards on just eight carries, all in the second half.
“They’re expecting the pass, so it leaves the run wide open. It gives me a great advantage to do what I can do,” Moon said of playing with a quarterback of Driskel’s talent. “The offensive line was blocking great. We’ve been working really hard this week. I’ve never seen any holes bigger than that before.”
Moon’s nine-yard run early in the third made it 35-7 and his eight-yard scamper late in the same quarter capped scoring for Hagerty at 42.
“He runs hard, he’s coming downhill hard,” Driskel said. “We have a lot of good talent in the backfield and they stay fresh throughout the whole game so in the fourth quarter they’re always good to go.”
For Hagerty, the rest of the carries were split between Anthony Felix (5 for 10 yards), Willie DuBose (3 for 16 yards), Jarrells (4 for 11 yards) Christian Young (5 for 14 yards and Kelvin Weaver (2 for 1 yard). Though he’s splitting time at running back between several different players, Gierke said that egos don’t get in the way.
“Winning takes care of that,” he said. “All of them know [their role] and we told them before the season started. All of them have worked extremely hard. If we’ve got a hot hand, we’re going to ride it, but until that point, as long as they work hard in practice, they’re all going to get touches in the game. They know that whenever their number is called they have to perform for us. They’ve all done a good job of that.”
In defeat, their fourth straight to start the season, the Lake Howell Silver Hawks may still have found something to build on.
Sophomore quarterback Michael McCoy was intercepted twice, including one to end the game by Hagerty cornerback Mitchal White, but otherwise, McCoy completed 16-of-33 passes for 103 yards and touchdown.
In the process McCoy also developed a connection with wide receiver Mitchell Dawkins, who caught seven passes for 107 yards and touchdowns from both McCoy and fellow receiver Bush.
The Hawks will look to build on that connection this Friday when they host Kissimmee Liberty in a non-district game. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Hagerty has the week off for their bye.