Land O'Lakes High School Head Coach Matt Kitchie (with football) was flanked by two of his players, RB Tyler Peak (left) and QB Stevie Weatherford (right) as he accepted his award
Land O'Lakes High rallied late in the fourth quarter last Friday against Mitchell High to pull off a 21-17 victory, secure a postseason berth and put its head coach in position to win the Buccaneers High School Coach of the Week award…The Gators will receive $1,000 to apply to their football program
There were less than three minutes left in Land O'Lakes High School's critical game against the Mitchell Mustangs last Friday, and the Gators were in trouble. After Mitchell tailback Ricky Trinidad scored on a five yard run to put the Mustangs up 17-14, Land O'Lakes knew it would have to go the length of the field in very little time to keep its postseason hopes alive.
A win would secure the runner-up position for the Gators in their district. A loss would mean the first missed playoff opportunity by Land O'Lakes in 13 years. Fortunately for the Gators, junior quarterback Stevie Weatherford wasn't ready for those postseason dreams to die.
In less than a minute of play, Weatherford led the Gators down the field, completing passes of 45 of 24 yards on consecutive plays. The latter hit wide receiver Will Irwin in stride for the go-ahead touchdown, and the Gator defense then forced Mitchell to turn the ball over on downs. Weatherford kneeled twice to wrap up the thrilling 21-17 win and Land O'Lakes was back in the playoffs. The Gators will travel to Hudson High School this Friday before they face Jefferson High on November 20 in the regional quarterfinals.
As a result of Friday's comeback win, Land O'Lakes Head Coach Matt Kitchie was named the Buccaneers High School Coach of the Week for Week 10 of the 2009 season. Coach Kitchie was joined by Weatherford, senior running back Tyler Peak and assistant coach Jason Hatcher on Wednesday as he visited One Buccaneer Place to accept the award. The group was given a tour of the team's training facility and an opportunity to watch the Buccaneers practice. Following the team's morning session, Head Coach Raheem Morris greeted the group and congratulated the Gators on their impressive victory.
"It's exciting to come and see this beautiful place," said Kitchie. "It really is, for someone who's a fan of the game. It's unbelievable to share this opportunity with two of the kids who made it happen and our defensive coordinator who I trust immensely and is a big part of why we're here today."
Along with a signed certificate, Buccaneers hat and personalized football, Kitchie received $1,000 to be put towards the Gators' football program.
"For us, being a public school where every dollar counts, that's an amazing gift because it's going to go right back to our kids," Kitchie said. "The way our county has things set up, it goes directly to the kids; it doesn't get caught up in the red tape. Our kids will benefit immensely from it."
Kitchie is the 10th high school football coach to be honored by the Buccaneers during this year's prep football season. A Coach of the Year, who receives an additional $1,000 for his football program, will be selected from the 10 weekly winners at the end of the season. The Buccaneers and National Football League's Coach of the Week program aids in the development of youth football, which has a positive influence on young athletes and the communities in which they live.