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Winter Park rumbles past Timber Creek football for 4M-3 district football title

Amaris Shaw, Aidan Warner, defense lead Wildcats

WINTER PARK, Fla. – It didn’t take much to motivate Winter Park High’s football team when it took on Timber Creek on Friday night. The Wildcats were still seething from last year’s numbing last-second 9-7 loss to the Wolves that decided the district championship.

Winter Park avenged that defeat in a big way, and on Homecoming, no less, with a runaway 47-3 victory that clinched the Class 4M (Metro), District 3 championship. Seven players, including the kicker Zach Hodges, scored for the Wildcats (8-1, 4-0), who clinched an automatic playoff berth with the title.

Defensively, Winter Park was no less impressive, allowing less than 150 total yards, forcing two turnovers and recording six sacks. Senior defensive lineman Hank Filamar had three of those sacks.

“I think the kids came out and played their butts off, played a great game,” said Winter Park coach Tim Shifflet. “It was 365 days ago that we went over there and went into the game thinking we were the better team. We didn’t get it done. Lost on a last-second field goal.

“It’s really been driving these kids,” Shifflet said. “Obviously, we came back here and got the opportunity. We played a complete game.”

Winter Park came out with a vengeance from the start. It only took two plays for the defense to make its mark as senior linebacker Hudson Gibbs intercepted Timber Creek quarterback Aaron Williams and returned it inside the red zone on the game’s opening series.

After a 5-yard penalty on the Wolves, Shaw sped 11 yards untouched around right end for a TD. It was the first of three offensive scores in the first half for Winter Park, which took a commanding 27-3 lead into the locker room.

Oliver Van Dyke scored on a 21-yard TD pass from Aidan Warner in the first quarter and Shaw raced 42 yards for a score in the second quarter. Sandwiched in between those two touchdowns was a spectacular 76-yard interception return by teammate Zion Gunn, who weaved his way through a number of defenders on the way to end zone.

The pick-6 exemplified how things went for Timber Creek’s offense, which drove inside Winter Park territory four times in the first half, but only had only three points to show for it: a 39-yard field goal by Alex Davis early in the second quarter. Nathaniel Hull ran for 75 yards in the first two quarters for the Wolves but Williams was constantly pressured, getting sacked hard to end the first half.

“Let’s face it, you gotta drive that ball,” said Timber Creek coach Jim Buckridge. “You have to make plays. We didn’t tackle very well on defense. We’re beat up.”

Things went from bad to worse for the Wolves in the second half when Winter Park’s Izaiah Jean-Baptiste returned a punt 84 yards for a TD, simply outracing and outmaneuvering a host of defenders on the way to the end zone to put the Wildcats ahead 34-3.

After forcing a punt, Winter Park then put together an impressive 10-play, 70-yard drive capped by a 1-yard TD pass from Warner to TJ Shifflet, to force a running clock. Shaw ran six times for 47 yards in the series.

“I can’t do without my offensive line,” Shaw said. “We came out here and gave it all we got.”

“Amaris Shaw could be a special, special running back in this area,” Tim Shifflet said. “I think people are starting to take notice of him. He runs hard, has breakaway speed. He came out Friday and had a heckuva game, did some great things.”

Qway Lake then finished the scoring for Winter Park with a 13-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats had more than 330 yards of total offense, including more than 280 rushing.

“When you can run the football and you can play defense, you can win a lot of football games,” Tim Shifflet said. “Those are the two keys this time of year, when you’re getting into crunch time and those big games.”