The Blue Raiders junior varsity jumped out to an early lead when seventh-grader Ricky McCleary broke free up the right sideline for a 38-yard touchdown run. McCleary later added touchdown runs of 35 and 48 yards, while accounting for 20 of Cleveland’s 28 total points.
With 2:08 left in the ballgame, Graysen Merkel took an inside handoff 39 yards for the final Blue Raiders touchdown of the night.
The Colts added a late touchdown with 39 seconds left in the game to make it a 28-6 final.
In the nightcap, the Raiders varsity squad looked to emulate the JV’s success with an early scoring attack.
After the Ocoee defense came up with a goal line stand midway through the second quarter, the Raiders answered with a safety from its quick defense.
Cleveland quarterback Kellye Cawood added a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jackson Moore and the Raiders closed the half with an 8-6 lead.
Coming out of the break, Cleveland eighth-grader Micaleous Elder opened the scoring with a 13-yard touchdown run to put the Raiders up 14-6 midway through the third quarter.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Elder again broke loose and scored on a 48-yard carry to extend the Raiders’ lead to 22-6. Elder later added a touchdown run of 54 yards to cap off his night with three TDs and more than 130 yards of total offense.
“The strong defensive play throughout the game really set the tone for our offense in the second half,” Cleveland head coach Mike Connolly noted of his defensive line led by Kaleb Flickner, Titus Swafford, Dylan Jones, and Alex Williams. “We made some adjustments in the locker room at half time and the players really responded.”
Connolly later praised his team saying, “They never quit. Great start to the season.”
Cleveland travels to Boyd-Buchanan on Tuesday, to take on the Buccaneers. Junior varsity action will kick off at 5 p.m. with varsity to follow at 6:30.