Thursday, December 6, 2007

Boone, Apopka steamroll into semifinal game
Boone, Apopka steamroll their ways into Friday's semifinal game
Tania Ganguli

Sentinel Staff Writer

December 6, 2007

They went into the games hoping for wins and left with nightmares.

Visions of Apopka quarterback Jeremy Gallon danced frightfully in their heads.

Boone defensive linemen Johnell Thomas and Jamarcus Allen rumbled in their minds like the monsters under their beds.

OK. So that might be an exaggeration.

But nightmares or not, teams that played Boone (13-0) or Apopka (12-1) this season almost never left happy. Edgewater did once, but then the Eagles lost to the Blue Darters in the playoffs.

At 7:30 Friday night, Boone will host Apopka in the first Class 6A state semifinal between two Orange County teams.

Freedom, Dr. Phillips, West Orange, Winter Park and Edgewater all know what it's like to lose to Apopka and Boone in 2007. So what do people from those teams think will happen Friday?

The near-consensus, though somewhat reluctant, was that Boone is the underdog. Former West Orange Coach Tim Smith, however, picked Boone to win. The Warriors lost to Boone 29-0 and Apopka 56-0.

"Coach [Phil] Ziglar was my offensive line coach in high school," Smith said. "Coach [Rick] Darlington has won a state championship, and I want Coach Ziglar to have the chance to do that."

Apopka's explosive offense and tenacious defense led most to choose the Blue Darters. Though Boone is known for its defense -- the Braves hasn't gave up more than two touchdowns in a game -- Freedom Coach Andy Johnson said Apopka's defense was the best he had seen.

"They were right on par with the Boone defense, I thought," Johnson said. "Both were very athletic, kind of differently though. Boone was real good on the defensive line, and Apopka's really good at linebacker. . . . The thing about Apopka's defense is, they are fast at every position."

Speed is Apopka's most potent weapon. After losing 43-0 to Apopka in a region final last week, Spruce Creek Coach Gary Meadows said his team never had seen such speed and was unprepared.

The player most often mentioned was Gallon, who has rushed for 1,491 yards with 22 touchdowns and passed for 977 yards and eight touchdowns. Smith said he wasn't sure whether his team touched Gallon during their game.

And if he's bottled up, the Blue Darters have hurt people with Jeremy Rouse, Travelle Davis and an assortment of other quick, strong players.

"Everybody will know they're fast, but what people don't know is how strong they are," Smith said. "I know Rick [Darlington] really emphasizes power clean [weightlifting]; they are really a strong group of kids."

Strength is the trademark of Boone's defense, starting with the defensive line featuring Thomas and Allen. The Braves won two of their first three games by one point. As the season went on, Boone's offense began to click and scored 29 against West Orange, 48 points on University and 28 on Freedom.

"You know how in basketball there are two superstars and then the role players?" Edgewater linebacker Brian Hill said. "With Boone, their defense would be the superstars and the offense the role players. They give the defense a breather and help the team out."

Hill picked Apopka, saying despite Boone's "very, very good defense," Apopka's X-factor, Gallon, will be the difference.

Dr. Phillips Athletic Director John Magrino and Freedom's Johnson, said Boone's offense was better than advertised.

"Their offensive line is probably one of the most underrated units in the area," Magrino said.

Edgewater Coach Bill Gierke, who tied for a state title in 1991 at Evans, mentioned Apopka's ability to make big plays and Boone's desire to build on last season's success as strong points for each team.

Gierke stopped short of giving the edge to either team.

"At this point in the season," Gierke said, "funny things can happen."

Tania Ganguli can be reached at

Orlando Sentinel

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