Another Tough Second Half Dooms Santa Fe High Football

The Santa Fe High School Raiders looked to erase last week’s overtime loss out of their memory when they faced the Palatka Panthers on the road. Palatka came in undefeated and outscoring opponents 87-7 in their first two games. Not only did the Raiders travel an hour on the road, but they also traveled into a hostile environment. Despite the long travel, Raider nation came in droves Friday night to support their squad. 

First Quarter

Santa Fe got the ball first to start the game. The drive started with a 20-yard completion to KJ Johnson moving the ball into the opponent’s territory. The Raiders challenged the Panthers’ discipline on this drive as three penalties were called inside their territory, two of which occurred on third down. After an encroachment penalty set up first and goal, a two-yard touchdown run by Blake McCormick gave the early lead to the Raiders. 

On the kickoff, Santa Fe went for a surprise onside kick. The kick did not fool Palatka as they started on their 45-yard line. After an illegal man downfield penalty on Palatka, the Panthers converted a long third down. Following a few first downs, an Elijah Daniels deflection causes the ball to fall right into the hands of Raider defender Blake McCormick giving the momentum back to Santa Fe. 

After a three and out by the Raiders, the Palatka return man muffed the punt and the ball was recovered by Bobby Herrara. But the Raiders did nothing with the momentum.  Following the short Raiders’ possession, KJ Johnson intercepted the Palatka quarterback’s pass making it three total turnovers for Palatka. Santa Fe’s offense stepped into high gear as running back Blake McCormick ran down the Raider’s sideline for a 70-yard touchdown run. Although the PAT was blocked, nothing but positive emotion showed from both the players and the Raiders crowd.

Despite the first onside kick not working, the Raiders kicked another onside kick directly at the Panthers. It failed, and the Panthers ended up scoring to make it a one-score game in Santa Fe’s favor. 

Second Quarter 

A weird development arose during the game. Palatka didn’t seem to like punting. Following the Santa Fe three and out, Palatka went for it on 4th and 12. A Panther offensive lineman drew a false start penalty backing them up an additional five yards and they still went for it. Despite Palatka refusing to punt and not converting on fourth down, the Raiders’ offense became cold. The Santa Fe offense went three and out for the third time in the game. The Raiders’ defense couldn’t get off the field as it seemed as if every third down was being converted by Palatka. Until unsung hero Elijah Daniels tips yet another pass for an interception. This time Braylon Guyden of the defense came up with the pick.

Santa Fe’s offense seemed to be picking up steam as Keimarion Neal ran for multiple first downs. However, two straight tackles for losses and an incompletion set up fourth down for the Raiders well into Panther territory. The Raiders went for it and an incomplete pass caused a turnover on downs. With two minutes left in the first half, Palatka couldn’t muster up any points. They entered halftime trailing the Raiders 13-7. 

Third Quarter

The Palatka offense came out hot to start the second half and was approaching midfield until a flurry of incomplete passes and short-yard runs set up fourth down. The Raiders stopped Palatka on fourth down and got the ball back at midfield. Yet another three and out by the offense caused great field position to be unused. The defense opened up by sacking the Palatka quarterback at the Panther five-yard line creating fourth and long. The Palatka punter finally got the chance to shine and punted the ball back to Santa Fe. After a first down screen pass to Christian Johnson and a Palatka offsides, the Raiders offense looked hopeful for points.

After three unsuccessful run plays, the Raiders went for it on fourth down at midfield. A false start derailed their chances at conversion and then they chose to punt. Palatka then went 85 yards to the house, untouched. A questionable no-call on a blindside block got every Santa Fe parent and fan yelling at the referees. The PAT was unsuccessful and we were tied at 13 midway through the third quarter. The Raiders were sacked on the first play of their next possession and didn’t recover the lost yardage and punted right back to Palatka. 

The Panthers then drove 80 yards down the field and scored with ease to give themselves a seven-point lead. After a short return of the kickoff, the Raider offense stagnated and couldn’t convert on third down. 

Fourth Quarter

This Panthers’ possession was similar to their last, as they easily moved down the field for another touchdown. Elijah Daniels blocked the PAT, making it only a 13-point lead. This blocked kick sparked a fire in KJ Johnson as he returned the kickoff for a 97-yard touchdown. Yet another blocked PAT made the score 26-19. The Raiders’ defense still had some fire left in them and was fueled with a massive hit from Jalen Williams on third down, forcing Palatka to punt. 

On the next Santa Fe drive, Palatka came up with a miraculous one-handed interception that led to another score to seal the game for the Panthers.  The lead was 14 with two minutes left in the game. Santa Fe tried to end the game on a high note, but a poorly thrown ball into the end zone was intercepted by the Palatka defender. Final score Palatka 33 Santa Fe 19. 

 Next Friday the Raiders will try to get back to the win column with a game against North Marion. 


About Nick VanZandt

Nick VanZandt is a senior journalism student at the University of Florida and this is his third semester working for WRUF.

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