After taking a beating by First Baptist Academy, the Marco Island Academy football team's defensive improvement wasn't enough to earn a victory on the road.
The Manta Rays lost at Southwest Florida Christian, 21-14, on Friday, drawing within seven in the final seconds.
"The kids just fought," MIA coach Damon Coiro said. "We came in and played a team that’s 4-1 and our kids just did what we do. People are starting to identify them as a group of kids that are going to play hard and I can’t be more proud of them."
Jarius Johnson threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Kings to their fifth victory of the season.
Forming a dynamic duo with Johnson, Brandon Lawerence returned a fumble 60 yards and racked up 151 yards on seven catches to end the night with two touchdowns.
"We've got to get better," Coiro said. "We've got to embrace the process of getting better in order to stop something like that."
Despite a Wendy Luders fumble and two interceptions from Kyler Howard, the Manta Rays defense forced three turnovers.
"They're working hard. They're scrappy," Coiro said. "... We start three freshmen on defense; our middle linebacker, our corner and one of our defensive linemen so we're playing a lot of young kids that are starting to get better."
Forcing the Manta Rays to go three and out on their first drive of the game, Max Rippl grabbed a 10-yard pass from Johnson to put the Kings on the board.
After a 30-minute lightning delay, Lawerence's fumble return made it 14-0.
Austin, Brooks put the Manta Rays on the board with a 1-yard run up the middle.
But in the second half, Lawerence scored his second touchdown, catching a 72-yard pass from Johnson.
Brooks ran in his second touchdown of the game with just 5.3 seconds left.
SOUTHWEST FLORIDA CHRISTIAN 21, MARCO ISLAND ACADEMY 14
MIA 0 7 0 7 – 14
SFCA 14 0 7 0 – 21
SFCA -- Max Rippl 10 pass from Jairus Johnson (Stephen Bergquist kick), 7:06
SFCA -- Brandon Lawerence 60 fumble recovery (Bergquist kick), 4:02
MIA -- Austin Brooks 1 run (Josh Dacruz kick) 9:11
SFCA -- Lawerence 72 pass from Johnson (Bergquist kick), 11:43
MIA -- Brooks 1 run (Dacruz kick), 5.3