The Marco Island Academy football team had no answer for a “freshman sensation” on Friday night.
Evangelical Christian freshman running back Jerren Robinson rushed for 191 yards and a long touchdown as the Sentinels came in to Marco’s Winterberry Park and defeated the Manta Rays, 38-21, in a nondistrict showdown.
The key to the game came when, tied at 14-14, ECS came up with scores on three straight possessions.
The Manta Rays (3-5) had some hope late in the game. They drove to the Sentinel 22-yard line, only to fail on a 4th down pass in the end zone with 5:48 remaining. Marco also lost the ball on downs near midfield with 3:23 left. From there, ECS (4-3) ran out the clock.
ECS’ talented skill position players, like Robinson, were perfect to handle the Manta Rays’ strengths, according to ECS coach Tyler Gold.
“We figured that Marco would be big and physical, and they were,” Gold said. “We had to weather the storm early in the game until we could get something going on offense. We had some big plays, ‘cause we figured we had the speed to do it.”
ECS quarterback Logan Pearlman also passed for 204 yards. Correy Massey had 97 yards receiving.
Austin Brooks led Marco’s ground-oriented attack with 170 yards and one touchdown. The Manta Rays piled up 352 yards of rushing total.
“We know that certain things happen in every game that can easily go one way or another. It didn’t go our way tonight, but I’m proud of how they’ve worked this season,” said Marco coach Damon Coiro about his players. "Donald Manley (the defensive coordinator) prepared the players well for tonight, but we didn’t handle the game well. The turnovers we had hurt, and a penalty in the fourth quarter hurt us as well.”
Marco started the game strong by driving deep into Sentinels territory. But then Fabian Long ended the drive with an interception in the end zone. From there, ECS drove 80 yards for the game’s first score, coming when Massey took a handoff, shed two tacklers and romped 18 yards for the score.
Late in the quarter, the Manta Rays tied it up on Kyler Howard’s bootleg run for a touchdown to knot it at 7-7 with just 36 seconds left in the first.
In the second quarter, the Manta Rays fumbled it away to ECS on two consecutive drives, and the second led to a Sentinels touchdown. Pearlman scrambled in from three yards out to put Evangelical Christian ahead 14-7 with 5:25 left in the first half.
MIA's Joshua Ames tied it up again with a 1-yard scoring plunge with only 1 ½ minutes left.
It looked like it would remain that way at the break, but then the Sentinels struck quickly to get into scoring position. Robinson caught a 38-yard pass from Pearlman to put the Sentinels in the red zone, and then Luke McDaniel booted a 27-yard field goal at the gun, giving ECS a 17-14 advantage at halftime.
ECS struck just as fast to start the third period. Robinson ran 65 yards for the Sentinels’ fourth score to make it a 24-14 game only 18 seconds into the second half.
“That was huge for us, to get a two-score lead,” Gold said. “We pretty much have the same mindset for every game. We have a saying with our team that it’s ‘1-0 every day.’ We played that way tonight and will prepare that way for our last game.”
Another big play increased the lead four minutes later. Massey gathered in a short pass from Pearlman and ran 30 yards for the TD that made it a 31-14 Sentinel lead with 7:04 left in the third.
Both teams end the regular season in Tampa Bay next week. ECS visits Keswick Christian with the chance to have a winning season with a victory, while the Manta Rays travel to St. Petersburg Catholic.
EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN SCHOOL 38, MARCO ISLAND ACADEMY 21
ECS 7 10 14 7 -- 38
MIA 7 7 7 0 -- 21
ECS – Correy Massey 18 pass from Logan Pearlman (Luke McDaniel kick) 4:16
MIA -- Kyler Howard 2 run (Josh Dacruz kick) :36.6
ECS -- Logan Pearlman 3 run (Luke McDaniel kick) 5:25
MIA – Joshua Ames 1 run (Dacruz kick) 1:30
ECS – FG McDaniel 27 0:00
ECS – Jerren Robinson 65 run (McDaniel kick) 11:42
ECS – Massey 30 pass from Pearlman (McDaniel kick) 7:04
MIA – Austin Brooks 4 run (Dacruz kick) 2:25
ECS -- Daniel Ibarra 55 pass from Logan Pearlman (McDaniel kick) 1:44