On Senior Night beneath the lights, the Matanzas seniors shined.
Before the Pirates' Oct. 15 football game, the senior cheerleaders, band members, color guard, football players, student trainers and team managers were honored with their parents.
During the game, seniors Tate Winecoff and Noah Cundiff combined to score four touchdowns as the Pirates rolled to victory for the second consecutive week, 32-8 against Orange Park Ridgeview.
Winecoff, playing most of the snaps at quarterback in the absence of sophomore starter Dakwon Evans, ran for 100 yards on 18 carries and scored three touchdowns. Cundiff ran for one touchdown.
“We fully anticipate (Evans) will be back (Oct. 22). It’s an in-house thing.” Matanzas coach Matt Forrest said.
With Evans out, Winecoff, Cundiff and junior Bryce Petellat shared snaps at quarterback in a run-heavy offense. Winecoff, who scored on runs of 2, 6 and 1 yards, was the QB for the majority of the snaps. He also played two other offensive positions along with getting some time at defensive end.
“We had to do some different stuff this week, trying to establish a running game,” Forrest said. “Our kids executed the game plan perfectly – control the clock and control the line of scrimmage.”
The Pirates, who also scored on a safety early in the game and a 27-yard field goal by Landon Grover, improved to 3-5, 1-2 in District 4-6A. Ridgeview fell to 1-6 overall, 0-2 in the district.
“Since the Gainesville game (Sept. 17) we’ve had some of our best practices,” Forrest said. “With a young team all you can do is try to improve every day, and I think we’ve done that. The last three games we’ve played well in all three phases. We’ve gotten better every single week.”
Winecoff, who normally plays wide receiver, said he did not know coming in how much time he’d get under center.
“I knew I would (play quarterback) in certain packages,” he said. “But I was unsure what my role would be.”
Cundiff scored on a 13-yard touchdown run to give the Pirates a 9-0 first-quarter lead. Winecoff did the bulk of the damage the rest of the way, including throwing a 34-yard pass to Cundiff to set up Grover’s second-quarter field goal.
“Tate balled out tonight,” Cundiff said. “He was looking good in practice, and he looked good in the game too.”
"We got to talk about our dreams, our aspirations. Everyone was in a good mood. The fans were energized. It felt good to be a part of the Matanzas team.”
NOAH CUNDIFF, Matanzas senior receiver
Cundiff ran for 45 yards, caught three passes for 54 yards and threw one pass that fell incomplete.
"He said the light was in his eyes," Cundiff said of the receiver. "But it could have been thrown better."
Forrest said his young squad was not ready earlier in the season to run the ball-control scheme.
“We have to be more than one-dimensional,” he said. “But first we had to get better with our base stuff. Now we can only expand on it from here. We have five offensive linemen who are brand new starters. If you would have told me in Week 1 that we would be able to do this, I would have said it’s impossible.
“I really like where we are right now.”
Eleven seniors served as captains for the game: Cundiff, Winecoff, left tackle Walker Skoglund, defensive lineman Brody Mushtare, defensive back/receiver Bailey Russell, linebacker Zeke Flores, safety Tyson Mills, linebacker Brenden Vargas, linebacker Everett Williams, lineman Ayden Andrade and receiver Cameron Sleep.
“It feels good to get a win on my Senior Night,” Skoglund said.
The seniors will have one more home game – the Nov. 5 Potato Bowl against city rival Flagler Palm Coast. But for Cundiff, Senior Night couldn’t have been more perfect.
“We had to have fun,” he said. “I liked the energy. They called out our names before the game. We got to talk about our dreams, our aspirations. Everyone was in a good mood. The fans were energized. It felt good to be a part of the Matanzas team.”