'We just had more heart': Sandcrabs stave off comeback to beat rival Mainland
Entering halftime in the Seabreeze flag football team's battle with Mainland on Thursday, March 29, the Sandcrabs were happy and confident. They were moving the ball on offense as fluidly as they had all season, they grasped firmly onto a 7-0 lead over the 15th-ranked team in all of Class 1A ball and they were playing outstanding defense. The Buccaneers, playing on their home field, could hardly move the ball down the field and were never in position to score at any point in the opening half.
However, Sandcrabs coach Mike Fries wasn’t too happy to see his girls smiling so early in the game — not with a whole other half to play, where a comeback would be waiting to bite them.
Still, as the Sandcrabs' second-year coach feared, the comeback came.
“It’s good to have some district competition. It’s usually close between Mainland and Seabreeze. They just came out on top this time, and they deserve the credit for that. They were great on both sides of the ball. But, I’m proud of my girls for coming back in the fourth quarter after being down early.”
Mainland coach Scott Wilson
The Sandcrabs and the Buccaneers played a scoreless third quarter. But with 10:30 to play in the final period, Buccaneers quarterback D’Zhariya Hopkins rolled right out of a collapsed pocket and launched a rainbow pass deep down the right sideline.
Three minutes later, the Buccaneers fought their way into the end zone from a yard out for their first score of the game. They elected to go for the one-point conversion to tie the game. Hopkins rolled out of the pocket once again and spotted an uncovered receiver in the right corner of the end zone. Seabreeze corner Kara Haas, who was the girl in coverage on Hopkins’ earlier deep pass, didn’t let the pass get off, slapping the ball down to the dirt as soon as it was released from Hopkins’ hand.
The Sandcrabs got the ball back, the one-point lead preserved, with five minutes left in the game and a chance to work the clock. Sandcrabs’ star quarterback Bailey McQuarrie, who had terrorized Mainland’s defense for most of the game, was intercepted by Hopkins, who also doubles as a corner for the Buccaneers.
Mainland had new life.
“After that,” Hopkins said, “I was like, ‘Man, we’re going to win this game.’”
Mainland had several chances to complete the comeback in the contest’s final minute. Hopkins underthrew her receiver on first down, was sacked by a blitzing Alana Neely on second down, had a near-interception on third down. And finally, on fourth down from midfield, Hopkins was forced out of the pocket by Seabreeze’s defense.
She slipped and fell before she could even attempt the throw.
The Sandcrabs, who previously fell out of the rankings after losing to Tampa Plant, won 7-6.
“They’re a really good team, but I think we played harder and fought for it more,” McQuarrie said. “We just had more heart at the end.”