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Eustis hosts Leesburg in 75th meeting of the teams
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Eustis hosts Leesburg in 75th meeting of the teams
LEESBURG
FOOTBALL
Eustis hosts Leesburg in 75th meeting of the teams
Eustis hosts Leesburg in 75th meeting of the teams
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Related Articles
2018 Leesburg Yellow Jackets Football Archives
Leesburg’s Jatavian Solomon (13) carries the ball for a big gain against Eustis last year in
Leesburg. (Paul Ryan / Correspondent, Daily Commercial)
Carver Heights Quarterback Club, Leesburg High School, Leesburg, Florida
2018 Leesburg Yellow Jackets Football Archives, Leesburg's Jatavian Solomon (13) carries the ball for a big gain against Eustis last year in Leesburg. (Paul Ryan / Correspondent, Daily Commercial), Carver Heights Quarterback Club, Leesburg High School, Leesburg, Florida
Leesburg Yellow Jackets vs. Eustis Panthers, High School Football Game

Eustis hosts Leesburg in 75th meeting of the teams

By Frank Jolley
Daily Commercial
Friday, August 31, 2018
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2018, 8:08 p.m.

To say Leesburg and Eustis have a long history on the football field would be an understatement.

It might not be Army-Navy, which have faced off 117 times since 1890, or Michigan-Ohio State (113
previous meetings), or even Alabama-Auburn (82), but it’s certainly the biggest football game of the
year for many in the two communities.

And it means just as much now as it did when the two longtime foes first played in 1924. Even though
both teams enter this year’s contest with 0-1 records, the Panthers and Yellow Jackets often play with
midseason intensity as if a postseason berth were on the line.

Friday’s game at the Panther Den will mark the 75th meeting between the Panthers and Yellow
Jackets, with Leesburg enjoying a 47-26-1 advantage in the series. Eustis, however, won the last two
games — 28-9 in a weather-shortened game in 2016 and 35-28 last year — and the Panthers are
looking for the trifecta.

“Dating all the way back to the 1920s, Eustis has only beaten Leesburg three times in a row just three
times (1940, 1941, 1942; 1977, 1978, 1980; 1996, 1997 1998),” said Eustis coach Mike Hay, who will
face Leesburg for the seventh time as Panthers coach and is 2-4 in his previous meetings with the
Yellow Jackets.

“This game is a huge stepping-stone to get back on track. It would also allow these young men to
become just the fourth group of Panthers to accomplish a three-year winning streak against Leesburg
and have a chance to win four in a row for the first time ever. It’s the kind of game that players on both
sides will look back on 20, 30, 40 years from now when they reminisce about their high school days.”

Like many longstanding rivalries, the Panthers and Yellow Jackets have produced more than their
share standout moments ... and stellar student athletes.

For Eustis, there is Stuart Cottrell, a four-sport standout who earned 14 letters during his high school
career and earned second-team All State honors as a quarterback in the late 1960s. Cottrell earned a
scholarship to Marshall University, where he played defensive back, and was among 75 people killed
on Nov. 14, 1970, when the Southern Airways DC-9 they were flying in crashed into a hill two miles
from Tri-State Airport near Huntington, West Virginia.

It is the deadliest sports-related accident in history.

And 35 years after Cottrell wrapped up his career with the Panthers, Joe Burnett began his legendary
prep career at Eustis. Like Cottrell, Burnett was a multi-sport star, leading the Panthers to countless
wins in football and basketball and eventually earning a scholarship to the University of Central Florida.

Following his college career, Burnett was drafted in the fifth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, for whom
he played one season. He eventually moved on to a long career as a defensive back in the Canadian
Football League.

On Leesburg’s side of the ball, Danny Trevathan played on both sides of the ball before moving on to
Kentucky where he established himself as one of the top linebackers in college. He was drafted by the
Denver Broncos in 2012 and played in two Super Bowls, including quarterback Peyton Manning’s final
game, Super Bowl L.

Other Yellow Jackets who played in college and/or the professional ranks include: Greg Johnson,
Dayne Williams, Tory Harrison, and Max Wettstein.

Leesburg coach Mark Oates will lead the Yellow Jackets into the Panther Den for the first time as
football coach. Nonetheless, he does understand the importance of the game.

“This game is important to Leesburg for many reasons,” Oates said. “First and foremost, we do not
like losing to Lake County opponents. These communities are so close geographically that there will
always be the element of bragging rights throughout your lifetime, based on the outcome on the field.

“Also, we lost last week and we need to get that bad taste out of our mouths.”

Rivalry games often bring out the best in teams and individuals.

Take last year, for example.

In Eustis’ 35-28 win, Panthers running back Shamar Buggs — one of the smallest players on the field
— ran for 256 yards and a touchdown. Keenon Benn also surpassed the century mark for Eustis,
running for 110 yards and two touchdowns, including a backbreaking 53-yard scoring dash with about
two minutes left in the game.

The stars also shined for Leesburg a year ago, despite the loss. Quarterback Wyatt Rector, who has
moved on to Western Michigan University, passed for 294 yards and ran for 103 more and scored
three touchdowns.

More than 200 of Rector’s passing yards — 215 to be exact — went to receiver A.J. Graham, who
caught one touchdown pass. Ironically, Graham is Rector’s successor under center this season.

Over the years, there have been plenty of stars and lots of gridiron fireworks when the Panthers and
Yellow Jackets meet. Every year does not always produce a memorable game ... but the possibility
exists that something unforgettable might occur.

“One thing’s for sure,” Hay said, “the Panther Den will be filled with excitement for a big-game
atmosphere.”



This article was provided by Gerald Lacey
Gerald Lacey is the senior sports writer covering Leesburg High School Sports for the Carver Heights
Quarterback Club™. You can reach him at:
geraldlacey@leesburgyellowjacketsfootball.com