By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
ENGLEWOOD — Winning led to singing for the Manta Rays after last week’s first win in 2016.
Shortly after Lemon Bay held off Cypress Lake for a 20-19 victory on homecoming, players literally sang with joy in the locker room after finally snapping a five-game losing streak to begin the season.
“We were so happy because we needed it so bad,” said two-way player Logan Lydic.
Lydic put his body on the line against the Panthers on both sides of the ball, recovering a fumble on defense and then rushing for 98 yards on 12 carries on offense that included the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. His running mate, Brayden Curry, did as well, leading Lemon Bay with 148 yards rushing on 29 carries — 20 in the first half.
Neither Manta Ray was going to let the season slip away when there could still be time to save it. The two both pointed to last week’s practices as a big reason for the win.
Instead of just doing walk-through stretches to warm up for practice, Lemon Bay began jogging through them in addition to running 40-yard sprints. The goal was to work harder in practice to be better prepared for the game.
And it worked.
“You could tell from the vibe. Practice was more strict and we just all worked hard with a little more focus because we were really gunning for a ‘W’ because we hadn’t had one all season,” Curry said. “Me being a senior, I didn’t want to go out without a ‘W’ so practice changed real quick.”
Curry and Lydic have had each other’s back since playing together in Pop Warner at the age of nine. Picking each other up has never been an issue for the two friends.
Lydic jumped into the backfield to spell Curry during the second half Friday to rush for all 98 of his yards, but they say one of the biggest problems for the Manta Rays during their five losses is that every player wasn’t doing the same.
The duo says that all changed in practice last week.
“It’s hard to change, but we did it because we wanted it,” Lydic said. “It was hard to change. It really was. It took five games. Some kids didn’t want to but then decided to cross the line.”
Right into the win column.
“It’s sad that it took five games to happen, but it happened so hopefully we can change around the season and win out and hopefully have the chance at a playoff game,” Curry said.
To have any chance at the playoffs, the Manta Rays (1-5, 0-2) must win tonight when the entertain district-leader Southeast (2-3, 2-0). The Seminoles are tied with Hardee for first in the league, and can put Lemon Bay’s season to rest with a victory at Veteran’s Stadium.
The Manta Rays, who’ve already lost to Hardee, know the importance of tonight’s matchup.
“This would be a huge win for us,” Lemon Bay coach D.J. Ogilvie said. “I think that would give us a shot. Maybe things happen with a couple teams losing here and there, and it gives us a chance to maybe do something.”
The question will be whether Lemon Bay can handle Southeast’s size. The Seminoles are big up front on both sides of the ball, and defensive end Darrien Grant, who is committed to South Florida, is a handful to contain with 4 ½ sacks on the season, not to mention Dequan Williams leads the team with 10.
But the Manta Rays proved to themselves last week that they can still win as a team. It’s boosted their confidence entering the most important game of the season.
“Last week let us know that we can actually do it and build chemistry together and actually put together a winning football team,” Curry said.
We’ll see if they can put together a winning streak tonight.