By FRANCIS FEDOR
On Friday, Nov. 10, the 10-1 Stingrays opened the FHSAA playoffs with a 33-28 hard fought win over South Shore rival Riverview, whom they had defeated 40-7 during their regular season meeting in October. The win sets up a Sumner rematch with Durant in The Tank at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 17, in the second round of the 4M regional playoffs.
The ‘Rays were hoping to replicate their success in this rematch of the same two teams that played on Oct. 13 when Sumner posted a 40-7 win over the Sharks in the Tank. Hillsborough County sports transportation problems were highlighted again as Riverview arrived just before the scheduled game time and pushed the start time back about 15 minutes. The Stingrays were without standout senior RB Devin Spencer, who was injured early in the game vs. Middleton, but it’s been suggested he expects to return for the Durant game. Sophomore RB Ronald Wilson Jr. took advantage of the opportunity to play, finishing with 10 carries and 77 yards. Senior strong safety, Cash Brown, also had a big night with two interceptions, with one called back on a penalty.
Sumner, as in every game this year in the regular season, opened the scoring. Sumner’s first score was a touchdown from the combo of QB Greg Smith III to Tyler Williams. Riverview got a big return on the following kickoff, which set the offense up inside the Sumner 20; the Sharks quickly converted on a run; and Sumner suddenly found itself losing 7-6 with 2:41 left in the first quarter. The ‘Rays had an amazing regular season, rarely not holding the lead, the exception being their late-game loss to Durant.
The Stingrays answered the Sharks score with a couple of big runs by Ronnie Wilson Jr. and capped by a Greg Smith quarterback keeper from the one-yard line. The Stingrays converted on the two-point conversion with a burst by RB Wilson and regained the lead. It was a night where both the offense and defense struggled to find consistency, and the defense kept Riverview drives alive on penalties. The Sharks spent a good deal of the night setting up in a formation, then shifting six players out of the formation and causing Sumner to jump off-sides. The ‘Rays were also stung by an apparent interception called back by a late flag for roughing the passer.
Both units fought through their challenges, the Stingrays taking a 20-7 lead into the half on a short completion from QB Smith to standout Malik Brown with 31 seconds left in the half. Brown has been key to the Sumner offense and is featured in the passing game along with Tyler Williams. Williams made a big play to open the second half with a 60-yard touchdown by out running defenders on the sideline to add cushion to the lead. But the Sharks still had bite and added two TDs of their own to stay in the hunt. The ‘Rays got another huge connection with Smith to Brown to go up 33-20. The Sharks answered with a TD to pull within 33-28 and setup a last-ditch onside kick, recovered by the Stingrays to end the drama.
The win now sets up a rematch for Sumner as the top seed in the bracket and renewing the Durant rivalry with the hopes of extracting payback for the late-game loss back on Sept. 29, the only blemish on a near perfect Sumner regular season. It will be an exciting time for Sumner, the team looking to make program history on Friday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 p.m. The Tank will be rocking, and you can be a part of the energy. Stingray Coach Ashwood and his staff will have the team ready to go. Game on!
Special thanks go to Karis Fedor for contributing to this write-up.
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