The Falcons set the tone right away against BCS. On the first play from scrimmage, Chase Brown raced 64 yards for a touchdown. SSES scored the game’s first 28 points, including two touchdowns within the first 43 seconds, and recorded a 49-20 victory over the Panthers.
The Falcons (3-1, 1-0) took a 35-6 lead into halftime and invoked the running clock mercy rule early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Fred Billy finished the game with 150 passing yards and Brown collected 148 yards on the ground, with 112 of those yards in the first quarter.
After more than two years on the sidelines because of a heart condition, senior linebacker Michael Burch was cleared to play. The story of his return dominated local headlines in anticipation. He ended up playing nearly 30 snaps vs. ODA and was a stalwart of the Falcons defense for the rest of the season, finishing among the team leaders in tackles with nearly 40.
After mistake-prone SSES fell quickly behind Shorecrest by two scores, the Falcons took control to secure their first SSAC Coral Bay Division title with a 56-28 win. Fred Billy shook off an early fumble and interception to show why he's one of the area's most dangerous offensive players. Billy ran for 157 yards and three second-half touchdowns. He also threw two scoring passes to Demetrius Davis.
“For years here, he really had to be the guy who made plays for us,” Creneti said of his star quarterback. “He’s in a position now where he’s got people around him who can make plays, as well, and he can focus more on being a distributor, making good decisions and making plays when they are there instead of trying to force them.”
Chase Brown also continued to prove he's one of those playmakers, piling up amazing numbers. Despite just carrying the football six times against Shorecrest, he sprinted for TD runs of 67 and 77 yards and finished with a season-high 213 yards on the ground.
To prepare for their playoff run, the Falcons next faced a stiff test from FHSAA post-season contender Seffner Christian. Receiver/linebacker Peyton Vining proved to be the star of the game as SSES won a 42-33 shootout. The senior helped the Falcons jump out to a 21-0 lead with a 25-yard TD reception and secured the win by making a solid tackle to deny the Crusaders a tying 2-point conversion late in the fourth quarter.
Big plays came from every direction. Demetrius Davis thwarted Seffner Christian by returning an interception 98 yards for a score and Billy picked up 108 of his 171 rushing yards in the second half. It was the Falcons' seventh straight win and provided momentum heading into the first round of the SSAC playoffs.
Spring Hill Bishop McLaughlin provided the opponent for the Falcons' first-ever home football playoff game on Oct. 28, and it was a contest SSES controlled from the start. The Falcons won 49-21 after jumping out to a 35-0 lead. The usual suspects shined for SSES. Fred Billy ran for two scores and threw a 10-yard TD pass to Demetrius Davis. Chase Brown carried the ball 13 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Following the game, five Falcons received word that they were named All-Conference performers - first team kicker Alex Virgilio and offensive tackle Josh Stevens, and second-team QB Billy, RB Brown and safety Letherio Jones, Jr.
By virtue of their win over Bishop McLaughlin, the Falcons played host to a second-round game on Nov. 4 against Zephyrhills Christian. As expected, the contest was tight, but Sydney Brown broke things open with a 47-yard punt return touchdown with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter and SSES went on to a 34-14 win.
Chase Brown again tilted things in the Falcons' favor after a 7-7 halftime tie. Brown ran for 143 of his 167 yards and two TDs in the second half, which put him over 1,000 yards for the season and pushed SSES to the SSAC Coral League championship game the following week at Lecanto Seven Rivers Christian.
From the opening kickoff, it was clear that Saint Edward's was going to be a formidable foe. The Warriors advanced to the title game by upsetting top-seeded Windermere Prep in their half of the conference. And after a promising opening SSES drive that ended in a fumble at the Saint Edward's goal line, the Warriors took charge. Using a ball-control, clock-eating offense, Saint Edwards scored on two of its three first-half possessions to take a 14-0 lead into the half.
Following the break, the Falcons continued to struggle on the offensive side of the ball. The Warriors played more keep-away and looked poised to add to their lead as the fourth quarter opened with Saint Edward's lining up for a 40-yard field goal attempt. Then came what proved to be a turning point in the game . . .
Senior defensive back Letherio Jones, Jr. sprinted around the end and blocked the kick, which was recovered by Jett Gillum. Six plays later, Fred Billy scored on a 7-yard touchdown run. The point after failed, but the Falcons had life, now trailing just 14-6.
Forcing a three-and-out on the Pirates' next possession, SSES made a huge gamble pay off. On fourth-and-6 from his own 42-yard line, Billy threw a long pass to a double-teamed Vining, who came down with a 41-yard reception at the Saint Edward's 17-yard line.
Two plays later Billy scored his second touchdown, this one from three yards out. Demetrius Davis took a reverse handoff and tied the game 14-14 with a two-point conversion and 7:22 remaining in regulation.
With the Falcons fans in attendance up and cheering as they felt the momentum shift, SSES forced another three-and-out, with Jett Gillum defending a pass on third down. Following a punt, Saint Stephen's began a drive at its own 23. Eight running plays, including Fred Billy runs of 13 and 25 yards against a wilting Pirates' defense, led to Chase Brown's 6-yard touchdown with 2:25 left to play. After not scoring for the first 86 minutes, 32 seconds over a span of two games at Pennington Field, the Falcons tallied three touchdowns in a span of 6:02 of the fourth quarter to turn a 14-point deficit into a 21-14 victory and their historic first state championship.