With the 24-7 win over the Panthers, Matanzas' senior class will graduate with a 14-1 home record over the past three seasons.
Clinging on to a three-point lead with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Pirates’ offense was starving for points.
Outside of two scoring drives — one that ended in a touchdown and one that resulted in a field goal — earlier in the game, Matanzas had been forced to punt each time the offense took the field.
So, on the Pirates’ Senior Night, Matanzas coach Robert Ripley put the fate of his offense in the hands of Zamir Parrish — a backup freshman quarterback.
The lanky first-year signal caller, with a 6-foot-3 frame and punishing feet, responded with a touchdown drive to give the Pirates breathing room in the dying minutes of the game.
“The kid’s an athlete,” senior receiver Devin Mathews said. “Running and reading blocks just comes natural to him. He’s just an athlete back there playing quarterback. Give him the ball and let him work. Let him do what he knows how to do.”
After a harrowing loss to Mainland a week prior, Matanzas (5-2, 3-1) is once again in control of its own playoff destiny after taking down Pine Ridge 24-7 on the night of Friday, Oct. 20, at Matanzas High School. The win ensured that the Pirates’ senior class would go out as the winningest class in school history. Over the past three seasons, the Pirates were 14-1 at home.
“It’s bittersweet, you know? I’m going to miss this place,” said senior defensive end Jarrett Patton, who terrorized to Panthers’ offense to the tune of two sacks and numerous tackles-for-loss. “I just went out and executed. I had to show up for everyone. Just wanted all the seniors to know that we’re here.”
Patton was part of a strong defensive effort that included five total sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles. In addition, the Panthers (2-5, 0-3) failed to gain a first down the entire first half and didn’t put points on the board until connecting on a jump ball in the end zone at the 5:34 mark in the third quarter.
“We’ve been on a roll,” said senior defensive end Dru Bowens, who also tallied two sacks. “The past couple of weeks, we’ve really been in tune about what’s going on. It’s just been clicking for us on defense right now. So, I really feel like we’re the No. 1 defense in the area, and we’ve been proving it.”
Bowens, who is likely to suit up for a Division I program next season, transferred to Matanzas following his junior year at crosstown rival Flagler Palm Coast. But despite just one year in the Pirates’ program, playing his last home football game still left an impact.
“It’s hard, man. It’s hard,” he said. “I love Matanzas. I love coach Ripley. I feel like they’ve made me into a lot better player. I’m glad I came here. This is probably one of the best moves for me and my family.”
But no one felt the effects of leaving his high school field behind more than Mathews, a four-year starter for the Pirates.
Mathews, who grew up in the area, has been playing on the Pirates’ field since he was 5 years old.
“It hit me when I was walking out,” said Mathews, who will be playing college football for Navy next year. “Leaving tonight on a good win, a good district win, with our playoffs hopes alive — couldn’t ask for anything better.”