defensive test: Winter Parks narrowly escapes Timber Creek

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Orlando, Fla. — No offensive touchdowns were scored Friday night between the Winter Park Wildcats and the Timber Creek Wolves. It was a battle of defenses the entire game down to the final play. Two interceptions including the go-ahead pick-six in the first quarter, from senior Jonathan Griffin-Heard, were the difference in this Class 8A District 3 matchup as the Wildcats finished on top 7-0 over the Wolves.

THE INFO: Delayed by thunder and lighting, the two teams finally were allowed to warm up and get things started. The Wolves jumped on offense first and drove the ball to the Winter Park 38 yard line behind rushes from Peter Hayes-Patrick. Quarterback Brandon Garcia of the Timber Creek looked into the red zone but was picked off by Griffin-Heard. At the 4:33 mark of the first quarter, the Wildcats had their first taste of offense after the forced turnover.

Stuck in the mud and unable to take advantage of the interception, Winter Park found themselves punting away giving great field position to Timber Creek. Back to back runs from senior MJ Jarrell, the Wolves were able to get the ball to the 43 yard line. It was time for Timber Creek to punt and so they did, setting the Wildcats up on the 40 yard line inside Timber Creek territory with 30 seconds left in the first quarter. The scoreboard would remain blank at the end of the first quarter.

Minutes into the second quarter, Winter Park was unable to convert the 4th and short turning the ball over on downs. Garcia once again looked down the field and was picked off a second time by Griffin-Heard. This time, however, the senior cornerback put points on the board with a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown. The sole score of the game gave Winter Park a 7-0 lead at the 9:55 mark of the second quarter.

Almost three minutes later, Timber Creek was forced to punt again. On his twenty yard line after the punt, Winter Park quarterback Cameron LeGree rushed to the 31 yard line. A pass complete to John Hodges then a short run from Andre Williams, the Wildcats drove the ball to deep into Timber Creek territory. On the Wolves’ 23 yard line, the ball slipped out of the hands of the Winter Park offense and Timber Creek recovered with just over five minutes left in the first half.

At the 1:56 mark of the second quarter, the game was put on hold due to lightning in the area. Since there were less than two minutes on the clock, the refs decided to call the 35-minute delay halftime. This meant that the two would play what was left of the first half and go right into the 3rd quarter. After the lightning cleared, Winter Park and Timber Creek took the field and at the end of the first, the Wildcats still led 7-0.

The rain would fall halfway through the third quarter and this affected the rest of the game. Neither team had any sort of offense in the third quarter and entering the 4th, Winter Park still led thanks to the Griffin-Heard “pick-six” back in the second quarter. To start the 4th quarter, the Wolves drove the ball into the Winter Park red zone. Facing 3rd and 11 on the 16 yard line the Wolves were unable to convert and decided to go for the field with just under seven minutes remaining. An attempt to catch the Wildcats off guard failed as the Wolves faked the field goal but the pass to Jarrell fell incomplete.

KEY PLAY(S) OF THE GAME: Timber Creek would not give up trailing only by a touchdown with three minutes and 20 seconds left in the game. On the punt return, MJ Jarrell appeared to run it all the way to the back of the end zone, but the touchdown was called due to a block in the back. Facing 4th and short, Timber Creek had to convert. The ball bounced loose again, however, the Wolves were able to jump back on it setting up first down once again on the Winter Park 16 yard line. With time running out on 4th and long, Garcia tossed the ball to Garrell put the pass to the Maryland commit into the end zone fell incomplete. The Wildcats took one knee and won the game 7-0 over Timber Creek.

STAR OF THE GAME: In the moment, it did not appear that the 27-yard interception return for a touchdown would be the only points scored during the entire. Senior Jonathan Griffin-Heard is the star of the game thanks to two critical interceptions in the first half. His pick six at the 9:55 mark of the second quarter ended up being the go-ahead touchdown as both offenses struggled the entire evening.

DID YOU KNOW: According to Winter Park head coach Tim Shifflet, this is the first time in school history that a Winter Park defense has pitched a shutout against Timber Creek. Last season when the two district foes faced each other, Timber Creek won 24-10.

QUOTABLE: “That doesn’t happen very often and I think that has never happened before. It was a huge deal and I told my kids that’s what it took tonight. After 48 minutes, we had to find a way to shut them out or the ending could have been totally different. It was a huge defensive effort and it was all 11 guys playing hard. I don’t know what this win will decide at the end of the day, but I know anytime you beat a really good football time like Timber Creek, you can count your blessings,” said Winter Park head coach Tim Shifflet.

WHAT’S NEXT: Winter Park (4-2) overall, (2-0) 8A-3, travels again to face the (0-5) University Cougars, another district match-up for the Wildcats. As for Timber Creek, they fall to (4-2) overall and (0-1) in district play. The Wolves host another district opponent, this time, the Boone Braves. The Braves (3-2) overall, (1-0) in the district are fresh off of a bye week after defeating Lake Nona (4-1) the week in week five, 13-8 on the road.



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