Florida commitments Maurkice and Michael Pouncey are keeping a weekly diary for Gator Country for the remainder of the season as the Lakeland Dreadnaughts try to win their third straight state championship and their second straight USAToday national championship. Lakeland has won 34 straight games, including a thrilling 25-22 overtime win over St. Xavier in Cincinnati Saturday afternoon.

Next up for Lakeland is Miami’s Dr. Krop. That’s Friday night at Bryant Stadium in Lakeland and it’s Homecoming for the Dreadnaughts.

MAURKICE: I have to admit that as soon as the game was over Saturday, I found my mom and hugged her and I just cried. I wanted that win so bad and when Steve Wilks intercepted the pass at the end in overtime to seal the win for us, I just started crying because I was so happy that we fought so hard to win that game.

We had to come from behind and that says a lot about our team. It made me feel real good about all our guys that we stayed together even when we were down in the fourth quarter and we rallied to pull it off. We never panicked. When we sat down on the sidelines with all our guys on offense, we stayed focused. We knew that we were down but we knew whatever we needed to do to pull it off and win we would do it. I think it helped us a lot to fight the kind of battles we had to in this game. We have a lot of improving to do but it’s a real accomplishment to win in a game away from home and it’s a tough place to play against a great team.

They were a really good team, too, probably the best we’ve ever played but the game shouldn’t have been very close. We got in the red zone three times and didn’t score. We missed two field goals and two extra points. We pulled out a win but we could have played a lot better than we did. If we had lost we would have had nobody to blame but ourselves because we missed too many chances. We won the game, but we were lucky that we could with all the things we did wrong.

The guy I was really happy for was Stevie [Wilks]. He really deserved to be MVP of the game. We were up three points and they had the ball so everybody was nervous but he came through with the big play. He does that a lot. You know, he doesn’t have great combine speed but put him on the field and he’s got great football speed. He makes plays. He’s a great athlete and you never see anybody that hits as hard as he does.

All of us Gators [Mike and Maurkice Pouncey, Ahmad Black, Paul Wilson, Steve Wilks, Chris Rainey] had a good game, I think. Ahmad Black had a great interception and he almost ran one of those kickoffs back all the way. Paul Wilson had a great catch for about a 40-yard gain. You get the ball anywhere close and you just know he’s going to catch it. I think people are surprised that he’s so fast, too.

Chris Rainey got us all excited when he ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown. He really ran hard all the game. He may not have had all the rushing yards like he gets usually but if you saw the game you saw that he made the big plays when we had to have them. He always makes plays at big times in games. We had a fourth and short just before we made the field goal that won the game and he just dove over the pile. We knew he was going to get it.

The defense really came through for us. I think they had something like eight sacks. John Brown had two or three. They couldn’t block him all night. He and Pat Turner clogged up the middle and our defensive ends were really tough.

I’ve been laying around the house all day today (Sunday) after playing on that artificial turf. My back hurts and my legs and feet hurt a lot. Man, that stuff was hard as hard as concrete. We played in our regular cleats and they [St. Xavier] played in turf shoes. If we had played in turf shoes I don’t think it would have been so close. I think we would have been a lot faster.

Come Monday, Coach Castle will give us that same speech he always gives us on Monday. First thing he’ll do is remind us that we can’t win Friday night just because we won last Friday night. He always tells us forget the past and concentrate on what we can control which is right now. So we’ll work hard Monday and we’ll work hard every day this week.

We watched the Gators play this morning. We watched it on the replay and man it was great. I can’t wait to play in the SEC with all those fans going crazy. Every game is that kind of atmosphere in the SEC and that’s why my brother and I can’t wait to get there to start in January. Those are the kind of games you live for. It was great they way they stayed together as a team and came back on Tennessee. What was great was watching my boy [Tim] Tebow. They put my boy in there to get first downs and he accomplished it every time. He’s the kind of guy you want to block for. Just give him the ball and block somebody and he’ll get whatever you need.

MICHAEL: This was a really loud place to play. There was a big crowd and the weather was pretty cool, not as hot as it is in Florida. It felt like a college atmosphere and nobody was as shocked as their fans when Rainey ran that opening kickoff back all the way. He took it up the middle, made a move and got by their kicker. Nobody was going to catch him then. He was the fastest guy on the field.

We made some mistakes and that’s why we got behind but I was proud of all our guys the way we came back. We made mistakes and there were a couple of bad calls that went against us, but we knew we were going to win. We weren’t going to leave there without winning. I loved the atmosphere with all the people. We had about 2,000 from Lakeland. I hated the turf, though. I’ve got turf burns today and my legs really hurt. I’m glad I’m going to be playing on grass at Florida. I hate that stuff up there.

We got that three-point lead on them in overtime and everybody was nervous because if they got a touchdown it was over, but I was watching and their quarterback was staring down his tight end over the middle all the way. Steve [Wilks] just read it and saw it coming. He timed it perfectly and stepped in front and made the interception that won the game for us. I think a lot of people underrate him but he’s a great athlete. Some guys run fast 40s but they’re slow on the football field. Steve runs fast on the football field and he makes the biggest hits although he didn’t get a big one Saturday.

Rainey should have had a lot more yards than he had. He was running hard all night. They ran a 3-3-5 and it was nine in the box but they blitzed from the outside to contain us. We started busting some traps and that’s what got Rainey going. You know, he’s really a little guy but people don’t understand how tough he is.

All of our guys came through. Paul [Wilson] made a great catch to bring us back alive in the fourth quarter. Ahmad [Black] had a big interception and even though we didn’t convert it into a touchdown like we should, it stopped them. He made a lot of tackles. Steve made a lot of plays and he got that last interception.

They were double and triple teaming John Brown the whole game but it didn’t matter. He still made plays. He had some sacks and a lot of big plays. They didn’t have anyone that could handle him.

It was pretty funny on the way up to Cincinnati. My cousin, Nick Moody, was really scared because he’s never flown on a plane before. We were picking on him and telling him we never know but we might crash. He’d look at us and you could tell he was really nervous. We had a few guys like that who had never flown on a plane so they were all pretty nervous. Once we got there it was a pretty loose atmosphere. We’ve played in a lot of big games but this was a big one. We didn’t get too hyped for it though. I thought we kept our heads pretty good.

We have to forget about this one on Monday. We’re not even halfway through the season so a lot of stuff can happen. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re not nearly as good as we need to be. Coach Castle will take care of that. Monday when we go to practice, he’ll work us harder than he did last week.

It’s Homecoming for us and my brother and Chris Rainey are running for Homecoming King. That’s going to be pretty funny.

This morning we watched the replay of the Gators and man it was a great game. They really did a lot of good things in the fourth quarter when they had to. Losing Percy Harvin really hurt the offense, but other guys stepped up and did their part. I can’t wait to be a part of the Florida program. It’s a winning program that’s going to get better. I think we’re going to be part of something really special. I want to win the state championship at Lakeland and then I can’t wait to get to Gainesville in January and start working hard with these guys. I’m really excited about being a Gator. All of us are.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.