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It took three hours on a hot and muggy night, but the Marco Island Academy Rays held on to defeat Boca Raton St. Andrews 41-35 for their first win this season.

The game, played at Winterberry Field, was emotional. The academy, up by six with three-and-a-half left in the game, finally staved off St. Andrews, which was driving as time expired. Marco head coach Greg Fowler was both ecstatic and relieved at the end.

“These kids gave me all they had for four quarters and it came down to the last second,” Fowler said. “Our offense played lights out and our defense stepped up when it had to.”

The academy led 14-0 when quarterback Andrew Fowler connected with Cayden Couture on an 87-yard touchdown pass at the end of the first quarter. Earlier in the quarter, Andrew Fowler connected with Patrick Michel for a 10-yard TD. Collin McMullen connected on both extra-point kicks.

St. Andrews tied it up with two scores in the second period before Andrew Fowler scored on a quarterback sneak with 1:34 left in the half.

But St. Andrews wasn’t done, striking back with just 23 seconds left in the half to take a 22-20 halftime lead.

Michel and Couture scored on runs of eight and nine yards in the third quarter to give the academy 34-22 lead. But St. Andrews again rallied, scoring on a 23-yard run with 29 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

The academy scored early in the fourth quarter when Andrew Fowler connected with Tyler Wallace for a 26-yard TD pass to stretch the lead to 41-29.

Again St. Andrews rallied, scoring with 3:26 remaining to trim the lead to 41-35.

The Rays got the ball back with the idea of running out the clock. But confusion with the game clock down the stretch brought added drama to the game.

At times the clock was stopped, then restarted, in apparent confusion.

Amid the clock confusion, St. Andrews drove the ball deep into Rays territory. The game’s final play started with 0:07. After an incomplete pass, the scoreboard went completely blank. After a few moments the scoreboard was restarted and showed 0:04. But after a quick huddle, the officials declared the game over and the academy the winners.

“They didn’t quit at all. We lost Brian Flynn early to a possible concussion and Matt Grille to stomach flu, so we were the walking wounded,” Greg Fowler said. “We just kept fightin’. I really proud of these young men.

“Our passing game kept us in it and at the end the running game won it.”

Andrew Fowler, the coach’s son, passed for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Patrick Michel rushed 17 times for 171 yards, his second 100 yard rushing game in three starts this season. Cayden Couture carried the ball seven times for 66 yards to go along with his 87-yard touchdown catch.

Vinny Moller picked up 65 yards on only four carries and recorded five tackles from his linebacker position.

Tyler Gresham had 154 yards receiving and 32 yards rushing and five tackles for the Rays. Miles Carlisle had an incredible 15 tackles for Marco.

The academy Rays host their first district foe, Moore Haven, at 7 p.m. Friday. Moore Haven looks strong, starting the season 3-0, including a big 27-21 win over traditional state power Belle Glade, Glades Day last week. Marco improves to 1-2.

Next Rays game

The academy hosts their first district foe, Moore Haven, at 7 p.m. Friday.

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