Thursday, September 27, 2007

Apopka adjusts to larger foes with a 2-QB

Apopka adjusts to larger foes with a 2-QB offense
Tania Ganguli Sentinel Staff Writer
September 27, 2007

Drastic changes followed Apopka's 36-0 loss to Daytona Beach Seabreeze in a preseason classic.

The new single-wing offense the Blue Darters had implemented didn't work. They had exactly one week to figure out something that would. The coaches scrapped their old system in favor of one that used two quarterbacks.

The Blue Darters unveiled the new offense against Lake Brantley.

"It was a little confusing," said Jeremy Gallon, one of Apopka's junior quarterbacks. "We were doing things we hadn't done against another team before."

For one thing, Gallon had never played quarterback before. But as the game went on, the offense made more sense and the players felt more comfortable. They won 35-28 in triple overtime.

Apopka is small and inexperienced, but the Blue Darters -- ranked fourth in the Sentinel Super 6 heading into Friday night's home game against No. 2 Edgewater -- are learning on the fly.

Four games into the season, the Blue Darters are undefeated against some of the best teams in Central Florida. With the help of a sharp defense, a quick and unconventional offense and a few lucky breaks, they are one of the best teams in Central Florida.

"I think it's somewhat of a -- it's a very steady team," Apopka Coach Rick Darlington said. "With all the young kids we have, I thought it'd be a team that was up and down emotionally. They haven't been that way at all."

Darlington said he selected the single-wing offense because of his personnel.

Size left Apopka at a disadvantage. The line's only senior is 5 feet 8 and weighs 220 pounds. Apopka's quarterback/running back/wide receiver, Gallon is also 5 feet 8 and weighs 160. Wing back Jeremy Rouse is 5 feet 10, 165 pounds, and linebacker Larvez "Pooh Bear" Mars is 5 feet 10, 195 pounds.

Inexperience was another concern.

Last year's starting quarterback, Derek Shaw, transferred to Lake Brantley. The offensive line returned just one starter and plays three sophomores. The Blue Darters have 30 sophomores and 16 seniors on their roster.

When Apopka moved toward a more traditional offense, players worked to find favorable matchups.

"We just pick a weakness," Gallon said. "We're fast. We've got a fast, small team."

They've got a skilled team as well. Darlington said Gallon and fellow quarterback Caleb Nelson are completing more than 50 percent of their passes.

Gallon and Nelson share equal playing time and alternate on no particular schedule.

Two weeks ago, Apopka traveled to Dr. Phillips and showed off that speed and ability to pick on a weakness.

"They've got great players; they're just young," said Kevin Pettis, the Dr. Phillips coach whose team lost to Apopka 24-20. "They're juniors, but they do have great players and they play hard, and they're just a great football team. Coach Darlington always throws in a few wrinkles you haven't seen."

Defense played a key role against the Panthers as Apopka scored once off a fumble recovery and return for a touchdown by Jeremy Gallon's younger brother, Bradley Gallon.

Things seem to be falling the right way for Apopka these days.

"Right now, we kind of have gotten a lot of good breaks," Darlington said. "Lake Brantley, they kicked the field goal at the end of regulation and missed it, fumbled at the goal line. That was a good break. Dr. Phillips had some long passes; they had a long touchdown run called back.

"But you can't always count on those breaks to go your way."

Tania Ganguli can be reached at
Copyright © 2007, Orlando Sentinel

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