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Marco Island Academy—already playing without suspended head coach Greg Fowler—suffered a string of injuries to key players in a 35-7 homecoming loss to Southwest Florida Christian Friday at Winterberry Field.

The contest was marred by personal foul calls and player ejections.  Two Southwest Florida Christian players and one Marco player were ejected. A total of 12 personal fouls were called during the contest.

Acting academy head coach Andy Delgado—the program’s first head coach—was so upset at the end of the contest that he refused to allow his players to shake the hands of their opponents.

“The truth is I thought it was a little over aggressive on the opponents’ side,” Delgado said immediately following the game, speaking in measured words. “I’ve never seen so many illegal hits and activity. We lost four players during the game."

The Rays actually scored first and held an early 7-0 lead. Southwest Florida Christian answered back with two first quarter touchdowns but failed to convert the extra point tries and led 12-7. The Rays were still in the game at halftime, down 20-7.

But injuries to key players started early for the Rays when leading running back and defensive stalwart Patrick Michel went down with an ankle injury. Michel, the area’s third-leading rusher, finished with just two carries for two yards. The disappointed Michel spent the remainder of the game working with the trainer in hopes of returning to action.

Then big offensive lineman Bon Deese was lost for the game after taking a knee to the head. Outstanding running back, receiver,  linebacker Tyler Gresham was lost with a shoulder injury.

The Rays sideline looked like an infirmary with Michel, Deese and Grisham joining Cayden Couture and Miles Carlisle, who were already injured, on the bench. All five players are important cogs for the Rays.

As the game wore on, Rays coaches were desperately looking for players to fill holes in the line up. Many players were playing out of position. Some were playing spots they had never played before. Many players appeared fatigued.

Junior quarterback Andrew Fowler, the area’s leading passer, had a quiet night passing, connecting on three of eight passes for 18 yards. It’s noteworthy that a few fine throws by Fowler were dropped. Fowler, forced to play defense, ended up with 13 tackles—12 of them solo stops.

Austin Gross made the most of his opportunity to run the ball, totaling 56 yards on seven carries. Gross also contributed five tackles—three of them tackles for loss. Matt Grille also made a number of nice tackles, ending up with eight on the evening.

Delgado was proud of the effort the Rays put forth, despite their dwindling numbers.

"We dug down deep and finished proud,” Delgado said. "We played hard all four quarters. That’s what matters. We never gave up.”

The Rays (2-5) travel to play Community School of Naples (7-1) Friday at 7 p.m.

Seniors Meagan Reisinger and Patrick Michel were named homecoming queen and king during Marco Island Academy halftime ceremonies Friday night at Winterberry Field.

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