So many thoughts went through Noah Cundiff's head in such a short span.
As the ball hung in the air with Cundiff waiting to snare it for his first of three touchdown catches, he thought, "I have to start something. I have to give my defense something to work with. I have to catch this. I can't drop it."
So many thoughts in a blink of an eye. Cundiff made the catch to give Matanzas a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter. The lead would hold up and the Pirates would snap a four-game losing streak to blank Lake Howell 35-0 on Oct. 8.
Matanzas (2-5) put the game away with four touchdowns and a safety in the second half for a Homecoming victory that was a welcome shot of relief and confidence in an otherwise a rough season.
"We played about as good a half of football we could play," Pirates coach Matt Forrest said. "This team has been through a lot, losing 20 starters (to graduation) and facing injuries every week."
Sophomore quarterback Dakwon Evans threw three touchdown passes, all to Cundiff, including the 42-yard bomb in the first quarter. Cundiff also scored on a 32-yard screen pass in the third quarter and a 27-yard go-route early in the fourth quarter.
Evans added a 7-yard third-quarter touchdown run, and Sho'Marion Gaines closed out the scoring with a 5-yard touchdown run with 3:26 left.
Cundiff caught five passes for 122 yards. Evans passed for 138 yards and ran for 66 yards on eight carries.
"Dakwon's getting exponentially better," Forrest said. "The resiliency he shows embodies the whole football team."
The Silver Hawks (2-6) have scored just eight points all season and didn't do much to help themselves with two consecutive snaps that went over their punter's head in the third quarter. The first led to Evans' short touchdown run; the second went through the end zone for a safety.
Tate Winecoff, who was named the Pirates' Homecoming king at halftime, recovered a fumbled punt to set up Cundiff's first touchdown catch.
"I could see he was kind of timid when he was trying to catch the ball," Winecoff said of the Lake Howell punt returner. "So when it went through his hands I jumped on it. We needed some momentum and we got it."
Bailey Russell added an interception for the Pirates.
"I had fun tonight," said Evans. "I think we all had fun."
Cundiff certainly had fun, playing just his second full game of the season after missing the first four games with a high ankle sprain and then leaving in the first quarter of the Middleburg game on Oct. 1 because of concussion protocol.
"You have to look at it as life and keep moving on," he said.
"There were a lot of smiles tonight," said Winecoff. "A lot of happy faces. The students showed up and supported. It was big for the team."
The Pirates will host Orange Park Ridgeview on Friday, Oct. 15.