Brahmans take down Martin County Tigers

STUART — The Okeechobee Brahmans looked prepared and confident when they took the field against the Martin County Tigers on Aug. 29.

The threat of Hurricane Dorian caused Okeechobee’s game against Martin County to be suddenly moved up from its original date of Aug. 30, but you could hardly tell the Brahmans were operating on a short week of practice from the varsity squad’s performance on the road. Okeechobee looked like a completely new, refreshed team Thursday night, shaking off any memory one might have had of their loss to John Carroll Catholic the week prior.

Okeechobee’s defense was aggressive and the offense finally found its wheels, as the Brahmans persevered to score a 21-14 win.

The victory snaps an 11-game losing streak for Okeechobee and marks Brahman head coach Ty Smith’s first regular season win.

Okeechobee started the game in dramatic fashion, with the defense forcing a turnover on the first play. OHS senior Oscar Longoria, who made plays all over the field on Thursday, forced a fumble on the first Tigers possession.

On Martin County’s next possession, Longoria forced a fourth and long for the Tigers after a big tackle behind the line of scrimmage. The Tigers then lined up in punt formation, but tried to catch Okeechobee off guard and get another first down with a fake.

The Brahmans weren’t fooled. OHS senior Justin Ray sniffed out the fake and blew up the play to give the Okeechobee offense back the ball. Still, the Brahman offense had trouble getting momentum throughout the first quarter and it wasn’t long before the Tigers had the ball again and were marching to the endzone.

Martin County drove all the way down to the Okeechobee 2-yard line. A huge tackle for loss by Lindsey Major and Justin Ray pushed the Tigers back to the 6-yard line and put Martin County in a fourth and goal situation.

But on this fourth down the Tigers didn’t rely on any trickery. They lined up their offense to go for the touchdown.

On the play Martin County quarterback Jaxon Scott dropped back to pass, but pressure by the Brahman defensive line forced Scott to throw off his back foot. The ball hung high in the air as it wobbled toward the endzone. It hung just long enough for OHS senior Veyon Washington to intercept it and return it 94 yards for a touchdown. After the ensuing extra point Okeechobee was up 7-0.

On their next offensive possession Martin County found themselves moving in the wrong direction after OHS senior Issac Herron got past the Tiger offensive line and sacked the QB. That sack was followed by two back-to-back tackles for loss.

After the pick-six and back-to-back big plays behind the line of scrimmage, the Okeechobee defense was fired up. They came to play ball against the Tigers and were dominating the game.

Okeechobee headed into halftime with their lead intact, but a flurry of scores in the second half would make Okeechobee’s first regular season victory since 2017 all the more dramatic.

The two teams opened the second half by trading punts, but Martin County finally got on the board with a 35-yard touchdown pass to tie things up with five minutes left in the third quarter.

Right on time, however, the Okeechobee offense found its groove.

On the ensuing Brahman offensive drive OHS senior quarterback Matthew Beard hit fellow senior De’nitrik Whittaker on a 63-yard pass to put Okeechobee deep in Tiger territory. OHS sophomore Jayquavious Thomas then punched the ball in on a 3-yard touchdown run to put Okeechobee back up in the third quarter.

Okeechobee would score again in the fourth quarter. Beard hit Whittaker for a 29-yard pass, which Washington then followed up with a 37-yard run down to the Martin County 1-yard line. When Veyon walked in for another touchdown to go up 21-7 with 1:24 left in the fourth quarter, it looked like the Brahmans had just put the final dagger in the Tigers.

But this is football, so of course there has to be a little bit of drama.

Martin County was able to respond to the late score by returning the ensuing kickoff for a 70-yard touchdown to bring the score to 21-14. Now all the Tigers had to do was recover an onsides kick and give themselves a shot to tie the game.

But it just wasn’t meant to be. This was Okeechobee’s night. And when the onside kick attempt by Martin County went out of bounds, all the Brahmans had to do was take a knee to end the game.

Okeechobee’s game against fellow Lake Okeechobee team the Moore Haven Terriers on Sept. 6 has been postponed to Sept. 20 thanks to Hurricane Dorian. The Brahmans next face the South Fork Bulldogs in an away game on Sept. 13.

Richard Marion is a staff writer and photographer at Lake Okeechobee News and can be reached at rmarion@newszap.com.

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