When Dakwon Evans leaped over a defensive player to score a touchdown, Cole Hash’s jaw dropped. Matanzas football coach Matt Forrest wasn’t sure if the play was legal, but it counted.
And it sent a message. The Pirates’ quarterback, who missed most of last year and the first game of this season with injuries, was back.
Evans passed for 207 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more to lead Matanzas to a 35-7 homecoming victory over Atlantic on Sept. 22.
Evans was held out of the first quarter after missing a practice last week. But he wasted no time when he entered the game, leading the Pirates to four second-quarter touchdowns.
“When Kwon comes in, it just gives you a different, electrifying feel,” Hash said. “You know that if the play breaks down, he is going to be able to extend it with his legs. And watching him hurdle over somebody, my mouth just dropped.”
Hash, the Pirates’ defensive leader, was also the team’s lead running back in the game. The fourth-year starter totaled 128 yards rushing and receiving and scored two touchdowns.
“It was nice to being able to show what I can do at running back, show that I'm able to do a lot of things," Hash said.
After the Pirates (3-1) lost their first game of the season to county rival Flagler Palm Coast the week before — and with their first district game coming up this week against state powerhouse St. Augustine — they needed a victory. They especially needed their offense to work out the kinks.
“We have missed the chemistry,” Forrest said. “And this was the first night that we kind of saw some of that come back, where people were kind of seamlessly flowing in and out of our offense where we kind of did what we wanted to do, go hash to hash and up the field and back.”
SECOND QUARTER SURGE
Atlantic (2-3) jumped out to a 7-0 lead as Preston Kuznof ran 47 yards on the first play from scrimmage and finished the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.
But Matanzas tied the score on Evans’ first play when he entered the game at the start of the second quarter. Facing a third-and-16, Evans hit fellow senior Jordan Mills on a hitch, and Mills turned upfield, stiff-armed a defender and ran down the sideline for an 81-yard touchdown reception.
I stiff-armed the first guy and I just saw green grass and I got excited. I knew it was a touchdown. I feel like it definitely helped bring the energy back to our offense. After that, everybody started to get rolling. Our offense had a bunch of huge plays.”
— JORDAN MILLS on his 81-yard touchdown catch
“I knew I was short of the first down because of how deep I ran it. It was 5 yards,” Mills said. “But in my head, I said, ‘I got to get this first down, that's my priority.’ And I stiff-armed the first guy and I just saw green grass and I got excited. I knew it was a touchdown. I feel like it definitely helped bring the energy back to our offense. After that, everybody started to get rolling. Our offense had a bunch of huge plays.”
Kuznof was knocked unconscious on the ensuing possession, and play was stopped for several minutes as he was placed on a backboard and carted to an awaiting ambulance outside of the stadium.
According to reports, he was alert and responsive and had movement in his arms and legs.
“Football aside, I hope the kid’s OK,” Forrest said. “Things were looking OK. There were some good signs.”
The Sharks were already without leading rusher Kwasie Kwaku and had trouble moving the ball the rest of the way.
By halftime, Atlantic was down three touchdowns, as Evans ran for two scores including a 24-yard scramble down the left sideline that included his second hurdle over a player during the drive.
“That definitely was improvised,” Evans said. “That wasn't even a thought in my head. I just went for it to try to take it all for the team.”
Forrest said he didn’t know if the hurdles were legal. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations rulebook, hurdling is illegal if the opponent has only his feet on the ground.
“Even that play aside, just him being able to throw the football and find open receivers and scramble around, it was good to see Kwon back making the plays that we know he can make,” Forrest said.
Hash added an 8-yard touchdown run with 12 seconds left in the half. Hash scored again in the third quarter on a 19-yard touchdown catch from Evans.
This is my first game back, actually completely healthy. After last week’s game, we definitely needed this. It brought the spirit back to the school and back to the team. And now we're back. I feel like we're back.”
— DAKWON EVANS
“This is my first game back, actually completely healthy,” Evans said. “After last week’s game, we definitely needed this. It brought the spirit back to the school and back to the team. And now we're back. I feel like we're back.”
Evans was glad to be back after sitting out the first quarter.
“I had some stuff to take care of at home and I missed one day this week, and coach makes me hold myself accountable along with everybody else on the team,” he said. “When I got in in the second quarter, everybody did their job. The receivers stepped up; the line stepped up. I couldn’t have done it without the team. We executed. We got it done.”
The Pirates visit undefeated St. Augustine High on Friday, Sept. 29, for their first of four district games. They play again three days later on Monday, Oct. 2, at Deltona in a makeup from a Sept. 8 game that was postponed because of a drenched field.
“How we compete and play football against St. Augustine, to me, will show how far our program has come, because they're one of the top teams in the state year in and year out,” Forrest said. “It was good for us to get some confidence on offense. It's going to take everything we got to compete with them.”