It came down to the wire twice on Halloween evening at Lake Nona High School. A spooky three-team tiebreaker was underway on the gridiron between number one seed Lake Nona, number two East River and number three St. Cloud as the three teams vied for two spots in the Class 7A playoffs.
Lake Nona’s backup kicker, Deighton Little, sent one through the uprights narrowly escaping East River, 3-0 and clinching the 7A District 5 title. The crowd roared and Little had done something big; he won the game.
Moments before, starting kicker Kai Casey missed what would have been the game-winner and was injured on the play. Overtime seemed inevitable, but a flag was thrown: roughing-the-kicker. Deighton Little came in for Casey and the rest was history.
“They jumped offsides then it was roughing-the-kicker and it was a great shot the second time. We always carry two kickers with us so we had all the faith in the world he would make it,” said Lake Nona head coach Anthony Paradiso.
As for the District runner-up, the East River Falcons won quarter one over the St. Cloud Bulldogs on a last second field goal. The Falcons senior kicker Aldo Barahona nailed a 44-yard field goal as time expired securing a playoff spot for his team. The Bulldogs last chance at a playoff spot depended on East River upsetting Lake Nona. If the Falcons had beaten the Lions, Lake Nona would have faced St. Cloud for the runner-up spot.
St. Cloud, last year’s District 5 champion, received no treats this Halloween as they watched from the sidelines while Deighton Little won the game for Lake Nona. The Bulldogs had one chance to score after a fumble by East River was scooped up for a touchdown, but the score was called back due to a block-in-the-back penalty.
The tables have turned since last season. Just a year ago, Lake Nona (3-7) and East River (1-9) combined for only four wins while St. Cloud advanced to 7A Regionals. One year later, the two teams are playoff bound, both have winning records and St. Cloud is not playoff bound.
“All season, we have been tested through trials and tribulations and we’re very blessed. We continue to do what we do and MacFarlane has been battling all year. It is a team win; our offensive line kept us going, defensively we had the interception and then our special teams put us on top. Hats off to the other team, but we’re the District champs so we’re just gonna celebrate this win,” said Paradiso.
The Lions will host the first round playoff game on November 11th against Stuart Martin County (6-2). The Falcon will travel as runner-up to face District 6 champion Viera (6-2) that same night.