Matanzas knows how good of a kicker Landon Grover is. But when your football team has trouble moving the ball, your kicker doesn't get many opportunities.
On Thursday, Oct. 13, Grover made the most of his chances. The junior booted three field goals including two from 42 yards to help the Pirates defeat host Gainesville High 22-14.
“He played really well,” Matanzas coach Matt Forrest said. “And not just the field goals. Also, his kickoffs and he had a great night punting the ball. He was able to control the special-teams game with his leg.”
The Pirates improved to 3-4 overall and 1-1 in District 4-3S, while Gainesville fell to 0-8 and 0-3. Matanzas was ranked 11th in Region 1-3S entering the game. With three games remaining, the Pirates have a chance to finish among the top eight in the region, which would earn them a playoff spot.
Grover gave the Pirates an early lead with a 23-yard field goal and then put the visitors up 13-7 with his first 42-yarder. He drilled another 42-yard field goal with 2:50 left in the game to close out the scoring.
“Those two 42-yarders were big-time field goals,” Forrest said. “We’ve known all along he was capable of that, but our offensive struggles have kept him off the field.”
The Pirates’ offense had been stagnant since quarterback Dakwon Evans suffered a collarbone injury in Week 3 against Deltona. They abandoned the air-raid offense, passing for a total of 16 yards in four games.
But against Gainesville, they upgraded to air-raid light, giving sophomore quarterback Jackson Lundahl the green light to throw. Lundahl completed 9 of 16 passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns — a 54-yard pass to Cole Hash in the first quarter and an 11-yarder to Braden Russell late in the third quarter.
“We knew we had to take the next step. Jackson (Lundahl) needed to throw, so the other teams would know he’s a threat. We knew what he felt comfortable with, what he could execute at a high rate. I challenged him. ... He's a sophomore and he should be playing JV football. So, I’m very proud of him.”
— MATT FORREST, Matanzas football coach
“We knew we had to take the next step,” Forrest said. “Jackson needed to throw, so the other teams would know he’s a threat. We knew what he felt comfortable with, what he could execute at a high rate. I challenged him. I said, ‘You’re going to have to throw the ball well for us to win the football game.’ He's a sophomore and he should be playing JV football. So, I’m very proud of him.”
Matanzas’ defense gave up just one touchdown. The Purple Hurricanes also scored on John Cooper’s 99-yard kickoff return to take a short-lived 7-3 lead.
The game was marred by two Gainesville players getting hurt and taken to the hospital. Forrest said Gainesville coach Dock Pollard informed him that both players were sent home that night.
Two Gainesville players and two assistant coaches were ejected after Gainesville receiver Matt Williams went down with 2:19 left.
“We were two football teams trying to find a way to win a football game,” Forrest said. “Sometimes emotions run high in those games. But I think our kids and coaches controlled their emotions really well.”