Pahokee rallies to beat Clewiston Tigers

PAHOKEE — The Pahokee Blue Devils scored 14 unanswered points in the second half of the Sugar Bowl to capture a 24-14 win over the Clewiston Tigers on Oct. 25.

“All week long our message has been ‘stay the course’,” said Blue Devils coach D.J. Boldin after the game. “We all knew that adversity was going to happen. Through the rain, emotions, highs, lows, mistakes, we kept saying stay the course. Our kids bought into that message, and that’s how we were able to rally through the tough times.”

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
Pahokee senior Frankie Burgess had two timely sacks against the Clewiston Tigers late in the fourth quarter. Burgess currently leads the state of Florida in sacks for the 2019 season.

Those tough times for the Blue Devils came mostly in the first half. After allowing a Pahokee field goal early in the game, the Tigers managed to answer with a touchdown to go up 7-3.

Pahokee was stuffing the run early against Clewiston, but the Tigers found some success with their passing game. Clewiston junior quarterback Morris James connected on some key passes to keep the scoring drive alive. Once in the red zone the Tigers went back to the run game and senior Jaivus Chavers found the end zone from 4 yards out.

Things remained 7-3 until there were only a few minutes left in the first half.

Around that time, the light drizzle that had come down throughout most of the game turned into a downpour. The rain was so heavy that it became almost impossible to see the action on the field.

In that rain-soaked chaos, both the Tigers and Blue Devils scored touchdowns.

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
Clewiston junior Morris James tells a wide receiver where to line up late in the 2019 Sugar Bowl.

Clewiston junior E.J. Bryant came bursting through the Pahokee defense around midfield to score on a long touchdown run and put the Tigers up on the Blue Devils 14-3.

A minute later the Blue Devils got a touchdown of their own, a 65-yard scamper by Pahokee senior Jermaine Roberson.That made it 14-10 at the half.

Pahokee opened up the second half with its foot on the gas on offense, marching down the field and adding another touchdown to up the score to 17-14.

That’s how things remained until the fourth quarter when the Blue Devils scored again on a show-stopping, tip-drill touchdown catch from Pahokee senior Johnny Jones. Clewiston sophomore James Edwards was in good position on the play and actually broke up the pass. But the ball bounced off Edwards’ hand and right to Jones, who maintained his concentration and caught the ball in the end zone.

That gave Pahokee the 24-14 lead and put Clewiston in comeback mode, attempting to score two touchdowns with only five minutes remaining.

After giving Pahokee back the ball, the Tigers needed a spark to give the team any hope of a comeback. The Clewiston defense stood strong and forced a punt with three minutes left in the game. They found their spark when Clewiston senior Davarious Johnson came bursting through the Pahokee line and blocked the punt, allowing the Tigers to take over on the Blue Devils 15-yard line.

But right when they needed him, Pahokee senior Frankie Burgess came through with two sacks on Clewiston’s final drive to kill the Tigers momentum and ice the game for the Blue Devils.

Burgess has 18 sacks in the 2019 season, which makes him the leader in that stat in the state of Florida.

Clewiston coach Pete Walker gave credit to the Blue Devils for the win, but was proud of the effort his team had in the game.

“I think we played with a lot of heart,” said Walker. “I can tell you right now that team outmanned us. People might be fooled by their win-loss record, but they played a heck of a schedule this year. That is a good football team. I thought our kids played hard. We had an opportunity to win the game, but they made more plays than we did.”

Up next for the two teams are two rivalry games. Clewiston takes on Okeechobee while Pahokee will face Glades Central in the 2019 Muck Bowl.

“This will be my first Muck Bowl as a coach,” explained Boldin. “So there’s a lot of emotions. But it’s my job as the leader to filter those emotions for myself and the kids. It’s a business trip next week. If we don’t win next week nothing else matters.”

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

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