LECANTO — Over the past two seasons, the Seven Rivers Christian football team has endured more than its share of long postgame walks to its locker room following a loss.
So it’s understandable if the Warriors wanted to soak in the moment on Friday night at Warrior Park. A week after breaking a 14-game losing skid, Seven Rivers made it two wins in a row, rolling to a 28-8 victory over visiting Ocala Christian Academy.
“Feels great; winning’s fun. We love to win,” Seven Rivers head coach Monty Vann said. “We tell our guys, ‘Learn to hate to lose more than you love to win.’ But it’s a great feeling. These guys are playing good football and I’m really proud of our guys.
“Had a great week of practice. We told the guys, ‘Don’t be satisfied with just one win. Don’t be satisfied with last week’s win. Continue to be hungry for the next win.’ These guys continue to raise the bar at each practice and it got better. What you saw today was the outcome of four days of great practice.”
On the heels of a 33-14 triumph in Orange Park against St. Johns Country Day the previous Friday, the Warriors (2-5, 1-2 SSAC FCS North) started this one off with a momentum swing as Matthew Taylor recovered an onside kick on the opening kickoff.
That’s not a new strategy for Seven Rivers, as Vann prefers to save his shorthanded squad from having to run downfield covering a long kick. But the Warriors made it count on a lengthy 12-play, 48-yard drive.
Midway through that opening possession, the game was delayed roughly a half-hour when Cian Bloom of Ocala Christian was injured while making a tackle. Though he could be seen talking and moving his limbs, he was kept on the ground and eventually taken away by ambulance.
Once play resumed, the Warriors finished things off with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Nehemiah Vann to C.J. Phillips at 5:13 in the opening quarter.
On their first three possessions the Crusaders (1-6, 0-3 SSAC FCS North) drove deep into Seven Rivers territory. They got to the 10-yard line when Phillips recorded his first of two interceptions, then twice got to the Warrior 6 before fumble recoveries by Taylor and Logan Alford.
That third turnover led to a 64-yard scoring strike on a trick play, with Phillips ending up with the ball and throwing deep to a wide-open Mario Aguilera, making it 14-0 with 2:20 to go in the half.
“It’s a good start to the second half of our season. We’re starting to earn what we’re playing for,” Phillips said. “Hard practices mean a hard game. So we’re coming out with a fight mentality.
“The team makes me better. The scout team is where the team is made at. If they don’t give us full effort, we can’t see what we need to see. I’m made off of what they show us.”
Ian Richardson ran the ball on the first two plays of the third quarter, going for 25 and 22 yards, the second carry being a run to the outside for a touchdown.
With five minutes left to play, Richardson notched his second score, this time on a 25-yard burst up the middle. That was his final carry of the night, his 19th for 137 yards.
It was nearly a shutout until Colton Bloom found Jett Bloom over the middle for a 12-yard scoring strike with 23.5 seconds remaining. Colton Bloom added a 2-point run. Nevertheless, it was a strong defensive effort for a unit that had given up an average of 38.8 points over its first five contests.
“Coach, he watches film. He stays in the film room, after game nights he stays until like 2 o’clock in the morning,” Phillips said. “He makes us practice every single day for about 30 minutes on passing, since they’re pass heavy. So we worked on a lot of drills and it got us to where it needed to get us tonight.
“It’s been really good. It’s been really happy. We just don’t want to end at two. We’re going to keep going. We’re going to keep pushing until this season ends. It’s going to be something good. Small team, two seniors, it’s hard but we’re here to fight through it.”
Next week Seven Rivers hosts winless Merritt Island Christian, which lost to Ocala Christian last week, 32-8.
“It’s very gratifying for guys like Brock (Weed), who goes out for the season (concussion),” Coach Vann said. “Constantly my mind is on Brock and it’s like, ‘Man, guys, keep on playing for a guy like Brock who wants to be out on the field.’ We’ve got another guy who was just concussed and he’s back today. It’s nice to start seeing our guys come together and I know for our guys, they’re fired up about things.”