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It was a long time coming, but pay day finally came for the Marco Island Academy football team.

After steadily improving all season, the Manta Rays moved to 3-4 this season with a 32-6 win over Gateway Charter in front of a home crowd. 

Friday night's win bests the Manta Rays' record for the previous two years when they finished 2-8 each season. 

"It means a lot for them," second-year head coach Damon Coiro said. "It provides them with the hope that they need to continue to improve. That's what it's all about. We want to make sure that they're hopeful for the future and right now they are and that's why they've been improving." 

Preview: Improving Marco Island Academy looking home win over Gateway Charter

Junior running back Wendy Luders scored three times, including a defensive touchdown, for the Manta Rays while rushing for 54 yards on 12 carries.  

"It clicked," Luders said. "I had to press the gas pedal and it all just clicked. We needed to get a 'W' and we did what we had to do tonight."

With a little over six minutes left in the game, Luders scored his third of the night with a 2-yard run into the end zone. Two minutes earlier, quarterback Kyler Howard brought back some momentum for the Rays after a scoreless third quarter with an 8-yard keeper.

Marco Island couldn't get much going in the third quarter and gave up the Griffins' only score of the game: a 35-yard pass to Kyrie Savoy from quarterback Tyious Savoy. 

Luders got things started for Marco Island, with his first touchdown coming five minutes into the second half with a 1-yard sneak up the middle to score.

The Rays dished out what cost them the game last week with a defensive touchdown late in the second quarter. Tyler Pasko picked off Tyious Savoy's pass attempt but fumbled before going down, Luders quickly recovered and returned it for 22 yards to score. 

Last week: Marco Island defense not enough as Rays fall to SFCA

Austin Brooks, who rushed for a game-high 98 yards on eight carries, finished off the half with a 3-yard touchdown run.

The Manta Rays defense picked off  Savoy three times and forced seven Griffins turnovers, while Howard connected on five of his seven attempts in the air for 47 yards. 

"We're seeing what we want to see," Coiro said. "They did a nice job tonight."

MARCO ISLAND ACADEMY 32, GATEWAY CHARTER 6

GC 0 0 6 0 -- 6

MIA 0 19 0 13 -- 32

Second quarter

MIA -- Wendy Luders 1 run (Josh DaCruz kick), 5:10

MIA: Luders 22 fumble return (run failed), 3:36

MIA: Austin Brooks 3 run (run failed), 1:02

Third quarter

GC: ‪Kyrie Savoy 35 pass from Tyious Savoy‬, 6:50

Fourth quarter

MIA: Kyler Howard 8 run (DaCruz kick), 9:03

MIA: Luders 2 run (kick failed), 6:58

 

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