LAKELAND CONFIDENTIAL: Nerve racking weekend

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 39 straight games. Next up, Lakeland is at Kathleen Friday night in the final regular season game.

MICHAEL: We won but it was really nerve racking because it was so close. Osceola had everything to gain and we had nothing to lose. They wanted to make the playoffs and we were in their way so they brought their A-game and they caught us on a night when we weren’t playing very well.

We fought hard to get that win. I was very proud of our team because when we had to have something happen, a lot of guys really stepped up and made big plays.

They had us 3-0 and they got the ball when (Chris) Rainey fumbled their kickoff but that’s when you saw our seniors. John Brown got us started with a sack and that was a huge play. Steve Wilks made a great tackle on third down. When we got the ball back I got a good block and Paul Wilson made a great block downfield to open it up for Chris. Once he got a step I knew he was gone.

I’ve only seen Chris Rainey get caught from behind one time in all the time we’ve been playing with him. That was our sophomore year against Plant City. We had the ball at our own two because we stopped them. Chris broke out and got behind everybody. He went about 85 yards and someone caught him from behind because he just ran out of gas. That’s the only time I ever saw someone get him from behind.

When he got the touchdown, we had to stop them again and Ahmad (Black) got an interception. That’s the way it should be with a team with a lot of senior leaders. The seniors have to make plays when you got to have them.

This was really close and I think a lot of it had to do with our off week. That really threw us off. I hope it’s like that game we had with St. X (St. Xavier in Cincinnati, Ohio). We had to come from behind to win that one and we got focused in practice the next week.

We get Kathleen this week. They’re our big rival and they got some good athletes. We know they really want to beat us bad so we need to get ready to go this week. It’s a good game to have the week before the playoffs start, too. We’ll have to play hard and play well. I think that will give us some momentum for the playoffs.

This is my senior year here. I am not going to go out with a loss. I heard a lot of people criticizing Blair Castle (Lakeland quarterback). He just had a bad game. He does a lot of good things. I think people overlook a lot of the good things he does because he’s the coach’s son. He will be there for us when we need him in the playoffs.

It’s going to be great to have my brother back, too. It’s been really tough playing without him in there the last two games. You know, he’ll look at me and I know what he means and I look back at him and he knows. It’s like we can read each other’s mind. You hear all that stuff about twins being able to do that. Well, it’s true. That kind of stuff happens for us all the time.

I was worried about the Gators in the fourth quarter. Man, that was too close, too. First our game, then the Gators. This was a nerve-racking weekend. We won our game close and the Gators held on to win 21-14. I was going crazy. The important thing is we won but I don’t need anymore nerve racking weekends like this.

MAURKICE: Man, I’m so glad we won that game. If we had lost, I would have felt like I lost the game because I couldn’t play. I was talking about it with one of my best friends today and I can’t even explain how I was feeling there watching them and there wasn’t anything I could do to help. I felt kind of responsible that they were in trouble because I couldn’t play. It was tough but we pulled one out. What that tells me is we all better show up ready to work tomorrow. When practice starts we better all be ready to go hard. That should have taught us. We can be beat if we don’t play our best game every time.

When Rainey came off the field after that fumbled kickoff in the fourth quarter, I told him you gotta make it up. Rainey is Rainey. He knows when he makes a mistake that he can make up for it. That’s just the way he is. He’s always been like that. Any time he makes a mistake, you better watch out next time he gets the ball because he’s going to do something big. That’s what he did Friday night.

He played sick all night. He slept under the air conditioner and he got a cold. You could see him sitting on the bench in the game. He was drenched in sweat. If you know Rainey, the game’s so easy for him that he never sweats. Even if he was sick he knew he was going to do something big and he made the play when we had to have it.

All our guys came through. We had to have it. I hope it taught us to be better prepared for our next game. We can’t wait till the last second to pull a game out. We have to put people away early. We got to get our killer instinct back this week. I think the bye week took away some of our edge. We were just killing people and beating them up early. We got Kathleen Friday night and then we start the playoffs. We need our edge back. We need to beat up on people.

I’ll be able to play again Friday night. You know I’m going to come to practice ready to go hard every day this week. I’m going to be focused. I’m going to get ready to go. I want to be Sharp Friday night.

It’s going to be good to play beside my brother again. All that stuff you hear about twins is true. We do kind of read minds and feel the pain when the other one hurts and all that stuff. We like it that nobody can really tell us apart. Our family can because they’ve been around us all our lives but if you don’t know us, well Mike has a couple of scratches on his face that I don’t have.

At school, nobody really knows who’s who so they just say “Pouncey” and we answer. We haven’t switched up on dates yet but we’re thinking maybe a little razzle dazzle some night. We did switch jerseys one day at practice. We went the whole practice and nobody knew the difference. That was pretty funny.

The Gators won over Georgia. That was a great victory. I can’t wait to play in my first Florida-Georgia game.

We didn’t hear much from other schools trying to recruit us this week. I guess they got the word now that we’re Gators.

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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.