The once popular song “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson serves a fitting purpose for the Bartow Yellow Jacket football team as the squad hits a portion of the schedule that puts them back on the bus for the next two Friday contests. The first stop on the itinerary is Haines City as the battle of the buzzing bugs pits the Yellow Jackets against the Hornets.
After facing the top two teams in the district, Bartow doesn’t get it much easier going against Haines City. The teams are once again district opponents, so there is greater implication on the games. Bartow hasn’t faced Haines City since 2010, a game that resulted in a convincing 28-8 win. A game many remember was the 2009 contest at Haines City that saw a Hornets defender step in front of a Bartow pass for a game-winning late fourth quarter touchdown in a 13-7 contest. Prior to that win, Bartow had beaten Haines City handily for three straight years.
Haines City comes into the game with a 4-3 record and 1-2 in district play. Two of the four wins were large margin shutouts over teams that have losing records in play for the 2013 season. District losses include a 21-point defeat at the hands of Lakeland in Haines City and an exciting back-and-forth match-up with Kathleen last weekend. The Hornets lone district win came in a 21-20 nailbiter against Ridge, Bartow’s next opponent. Haines City has also defeated Lake Wales, who will visit Bartow for the final game of the year in November.
Bartow this season is 2-4, 0-3 in district action.
Like most teams in the district, Haines City relies on speed and quickness on offense. In the games against Kathleen and Lakeland, Haines City went to the air often and with greater success than the running game, which netted 16 yards against Lakeland in as many attempts. Big plays tend to propel the Hornets with two of the touchdowns in the Kathleen game coming from more than 70 yards - a 71 yard pass play and an 84 yard run with D.J. Law on the receiving end of each. Haines City also scored on a fake field goal in that game.
Statistics don’t come close to telling the story for Bartow. The final score in last week’s Lakeland contest has Bartow losing 43-21, but the real story comes with the 21. Bartow outscored the number 4 team in the state 21-14 in the second half. The defense was quick to jump on the ball on Dreadnaught offensive miscues, including one ramble from Romante Bell that led to a score. Bell was playing in his first game after a spring game injury.
“We have a lot of young guys on this team who just don’t give up,” coach Bernard Stephens said. “They don’t lay down out there.”