OKEECHOBEE — After fast starts in their last two games, the Okeechobee Brahmans offense struggled to put together a drive in their game against the Sebastian River Sharks on Sept. 27. Okeechobee lost the district match against Sebastian River 25-0, dropping them to 1-4 on the year.
The Brahmans won the coin toss and chose to receive the opening kickoff, and things looked promising for the home team on their first offensive drive.
Okeechobee senior quarterback Matthew Beard hit fellow senior Veyon Washington for a 25-yard pass to open the game. Washington accelerated up the sideline then stopped on a dime to come back and catch Beard’s pass. That sudden stop was a little too abrupt for the Sebastian River defensive back covering Washington, who found himself tumbling to the ground below Veyon when he attempted to change course. But after that great beginning, a false start penalty put the Brahmans behind the sticks and killed any momentum the opening drive had.
The Brahman defense played well in stretches, but a few crucial mistakes too often let the Sharks offense continue drives after Okeechobee had stopped them. Late in the second half Okeechobee stopped a Sebastian River drive and forced a field goal attempt. But a penalty for running into the kicker gave the Sharks another chance, which they took full advantage of by scoring a touchdown.
Okeechobee senior De’nitrik Whittaker has been a highlight for the Brahmans on defense and special teams. Whittaker had a few pass break-ups against the Sharks including a near interception in the second half that most certainly would’ve gone the other way for a touchdown.
Whittaker was playing 10 yards off Sharks junior wide receiver Devon White. When White cut his route after five yards and turned to catch a pass from his quarterback, Whittaker used his speed to close the gap and cut off the pass. The ball bounced off Whittaker’s hand as he came barreling down on the Sharks wide receiver. If he had caught it, Whittaker would’ve been able to walk into the end zone untouched.
On special teams Whittaker had some big punt and kickoff returns to give the Brahman offense good field position.
But Okeechobee couldn’t maintain enough consistency on offense to put up any points. Part of that was due to the Sebastian River defense shutting down the Brahmans’ run game.
Okeechobee had another big pass play in the second half. Beard hit junior Joshua Suarez for a 48-yard pass in the third quarter. Suarez caught the ball around the Sharks 44-yard line then used some shifty footwork to work his way down to the 22-yard line. Okeechobee was down 22-0 at that point and desperately needed to put points on the board to kick-start the hopeful comeback.
But the Sharks defense tightened up and intercepted a fourth down pass to deny Okeechobee the end zone.
Next Okeechobee will host its homecoming game against a very good Seminole Ridge team that is 4-1 so far this year. Seminole Ridge quarterback Shane Goolsby has shown some play making ability with his legs this year. The Brahman defense will need to contain Goolsby to give its offense a chance to start rolling.
Okeechobee hosts Seminole Ridge at 7 p.m. on Oct. 4.