FOOTBALL

Play-in football roundup: Barron, Island Coast rally; Naples, Cypress, Lehigh, Lely, Dunbar win

Naples 17, North Fort Myers 7

Whether the head coach at Naples is Hall-of-Famer Bill Kramer or longtime Kramer assistant turned first-year head coach Rick Martin, the program standard is the same. And on Friday, the standard was continuing a 13-game winning streak in first-round playoff games.

Facing an undefeated North Fort Myers team built on a strong defense and running game much like the Golden Eagles (6-1), Naples junior quarterback Stanley Bryant III and the offense took care of the ball and awaited their opportunity to strike. And the defense held North (8-1) to its lowest scoring output of the season in a Class 6A regional play-in game.

“Kramer, me, whatever. We have a certain structure, we have certain expectations,” said Martin, whose squad will travel to city rival Barron Collier, which stunned Fort Myers in a 54-53 thriller, for a regional quarterfinal next week. “Like I was telling you earlier we focus on ourselves. We focus on what we do, and we just go forward every day.”

More:Southwest Florida high school football play-in game scoreboard with photo galleries and videos

Bryant didn’t turn the ball over and scored twice in the game. The first tied the game at 7 with 2:37 left in the first half after Bryant found Keylijah Williams down the field for 41 yards. Bryant then took it in from 8 yards out. 

After a North 3-and-out, Williams drew a pass interference call that set up 30-yard Colton Castillo field goal as the game went to halftime.

Trailing 10-7 with 4:43 left at its own 36 facing a third down-and-9, North quarterback Tavin Ward was sacked by an untouched Slade Dollar to force a punt. 

Bryant bled away most of the clock until he broke free around the end for a 42-yard touchdown with 58 seconds remaining.

“We knew we had to run it right back at them,” Martin said. “We knew we had to beat them at their own game if it was possible.”

North, which posted the fourth undefeated regular season in school history, was missing three injured starters, including wideout Daniel Pilgrim and safety Emanuel Spandiary, and Tropical Storm Eta wreaked havoc with its practice schedule. The team had just one outdoor and one indoor practice.

“There’s no excuses no matter what happens,” North coach Dwayne Mack said. “Nobody cares. You play football and you play to win.”

The Red Knights had trouble sustaining any kind of drive after a 90-yard drive to start the game. Brett Reed’s 44-yard run set up Ward’s 24-yard keeper with 10:08 left in the first.

North is now 2-3 in the playoffs under Mack. He also said the standard has been set for his program three years into his leadership. However, the program standing across the field from him is one of the standard-bearers in the area, Mack said.

“If you want to model a program after someone there’s two teams I go to — Naples and Venice,” Mack said. “I remember when I first got the job three years ago. I came down here and talked to Coach Kramer and Coach Kramer made one thing very clear. Success is not a secret. You find someone who’s successful and you model it. I’m going to model it after these guys right here and Venice.”

— Adam Regan

Barron Collier 54, Fort Myers 53

In a year so forgetful, Barron Collier made quite the memory. The Cougars rallied from a 15-point deficit with 9:01 left, and exorcized 22 years without a playoff victory by going for two with 50.6 seconds left at Cougar Stadium.

Quarterback Dylan McNamara completed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Pabon to bring the Cougars (6-2) within a point, and Barron didn't hesitate lining up to go for two. McNamara rolled to his right and found Jaheim Arnold in the back of the end zone to win it.

"(Barron Collier coach Mark Jackson) went for it all, he trusted us, we trust him," said McNamara, who completed 24 of 48 passes for 375 yards. "We trust his decision-making. We trust his play-calling. We just execute. We ran it in practice over and over ... We were ready."

Fort Myers (6-3) returned the kickoff to its 48, and quarterback Carter Lane (11-of-23, 239 yards) nearly connected with wide receiver and Illinois commit Joriell Washington for a long pass on the first play from scrimmage. But the Greenies couldn't complete passes on the next three plays, and Barron won it.

"It is what it is," Fort Myers coach Sam Sirianni said. "We had plenty of chances to win a game. They made every key — all of the two-point plays. We had some missed extra points, and we gave a few points away early. They don't seem like much. But at the end of the day, if we stopped either one of the two-point plays ... but credit to them. It's tough to lose one like that. We didn't play well enough to win. Too many mistakes. Too many big leads blown."

The Cougars built a 28-14 lead in the second quarter, but the Greenies came right back, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the final 3:08 of the first half. Fort Myers had its extra point blocked for the second time on the last one, and Barron led 28-27 at the half.

On the first possession of the second half, Greenies lineman Jachaziel Augustin batted McNamara's pass up in the air and intercepted it, returning it deep into Cougars territory to set up another touchdown. A Barron fumble on the next possession at midfield resulted in another Fort Myers scoring drive and a 40-28 lead -- and 26 Fort Myers straight points -- with 7:01 to go in the third.

McNamara answered with a touchdown run, but Zamare Harvin scored on fourth and goal from the 1 to put the Greenies back up 46-35. The Cougars responded with a long pass to Arnold inside the 10, but couldn't get into the end zone and settled for Matthew Campbell's 25-yard field goal with 20.3 left in the third. Harvin, who rushed for 223 yards, capped the next drive with a 13-yard run to make it 53-38 with 9:01 left.

"Our team has character," Jackson said. "We're not going to quit. We're going to keep chipping and keep believing in each other. Things weren't great. I'm so proud of how they responded, their effort, their attitude, kept believing in each other.

"One word: It's love. I love them, they love each other, that's all that matters."

The Cougars weren't done. Arnold caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from McNamara with 6:02 left, and Jackson rolled the dice for the first time, deciding to go for two. The ball was placed at the 1 because of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Fort Myers on the touchdown. McNamara easily ran it in.

Penalties and a sack forced a Fort Myers punt, and the Cougars drove 56 yards, part of it with the help of a defensive holding penalty and also a pass interference penalty in the end zone.

— Greg Hardwig

Palmetto Ridge 34, Port Charlotte 13

As it’s done all season, Palmetto Ridge’s defense came up with game-changing plays that led to points. But this wasn’t like the first seven victories this season. Thanks to their opportunistic defense the Bears earned the first playoff victory in program history (since 2004).

No play in the Class 6A-Region 4 play-in game was bigger than the 100-yard interception return by Palmetto Ridge senior Malique Dieudonne.

Trailing 21-6, Port Charlotte had a first down at the Palmetto Ridge 7-yard line with less than a minute left before halftime. A touchdown would have made it a one-score game and the Pirates (5-4) would get the ball to start the second half.

Instead, Dieudonne stepped in front of a pass two yards deep into the end zone. He sprinted roughly 102 yards to the other end zone – although returns cannot be longer than 100 yards in the official stat book – to put Palmetto Ridge up 27-6.

“I was looking at my blocks. I saw (an opening) and I took off,” Dieudonne said of his defensive touchdown. “I was tired, I just had to get into the end zone. Once we got that, everyone knew it was game over.”

The Pirates (5-4) were able to move the ball, totaling nearly 300 yards. However, they were hurt by five turnovers, which led to 20 points for Palmetto Ridge (8-0). Dieudonne also had an interception in the end zone in the third quarter.

“It was a big play, but there were another (four) turnovers that were big plays too,” Port Charlotte coach Jordan Ingman said of Dieudonne’s pick six. “You can’t turn the ball over as many times as we did and win in the playoffs.”

Bears’ receiver Kamonte Grimes, committed to Nebraska, had two touchdown receptions. Sophomore running back Jaden Booker had 92 yards and two touchdowns for Palmetto Ridge.

The win was particularly special for Dieudonne and Grimes, both four-year varsity players. They were on the 2017 team that lost in the first round of the playoffs. Before their junior years they lost teammate Colby Singletary in a car accident. Then, like everyone else, they dealt with the coronavirus this season.

“First playoff win in school history – we feel great,” Grimes said. “We’ve been working toward this for a while. All through quarantine, it’s just been work. That’s all we know is work.”

With the win, Palmetto Ridge tied a program record for victories in a season. The Bears went 8-3 in 2015, coach Chris Toukonen’s first season, but lost in the first round.

Three of the four playoff appearances in team history have been in Toukonen’s six seasons. But the Bears coach didn’t celebrate after Friday’s win. He remained businesslike because he knows there’s more work to be done.

“We had big expectations coming into the year,” Toukonen said. “This is exactly where we expected to be, where we thought we would be. I look at every year as a new year. Past years really don’t matter. We’re looking at this year and trying to win every week.”

In his final game for Port Charlotte, senior quarterback Logan Rogers threw for 144 yards and ran for 43 and a touchdown. Senior running back Virgil Luther rushed for 67 yards, while senior receiver Solomon Luther had 102 receiving yards and a rushing touchdown.

— Adam Fisher

Lely 28, Ida Baker 26

What looked like a promising start for the Trojans turned into a nail biter late in the fourth quarter, as Lely fended off a furious Bulldog comeback Friday night at Trojan Stadium. This is Lely's first playoff win since the 2014 season, when they defeated Miami Jackson at home, 28-25.

J.J. Everage's team got started early in the Class 6A play-in game, going up 13-0 in the first 13 minutes of the game. Anthony Felix won a jump ball over his defender to get the scoring started, then Jason Hoenig returned a Luke Sather interception for a score, one of six interceptions by the Trojan defense. 

"This win is huge for us," Everage said. "The 2-5 record does not reflect what type of athleticism they have. It's not a reflection of what type of team this is. I told them before, you may be the best 2-5 team in the state of Florida. We should've put the game away a long time before, but it's a learning experience and a learning curve."

With under five minutes in the game down 28-13, Chuck Faucette's Ida Baker team found the end zone thanks to a blocked punt, which was returned for a touchdown. The Bulldogs then got a friendly bounce on the onside kick, which Eric Swanson capitalized on a few plays later, finding Sebastian Grafmyre from 40 yards out to trim the margin to two. 

After a Lely punt, the Bulldogs had a chance to advance. On the ensuing play following a Levontai Summersett first down reception, Omar Vilsaint picked off a deep ball from Swanson to seal the game.

Felix ended the night with 99 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns, while Dervil compiled 131 yards with three total touchdowns. Bo Summersett ended the night with seven catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. Swanson completed 8-of-18 passes for 180 yards with two scores and four interceptions. 

Lely (3-5) advances to take on Miami Central at Traz Powell Stadium, while Ida Baker closes its season at 4-4. Everage will take him team across Alligator Alley for the second consecutive year in the postseason. 

"(Central) is the No. 17 team in the country," Everage said. "It's the experience. We're going to prepare like we can win the game and not think anyway different. The kids need to understand that. Like Ric Flair said, to be the man you've got to beat the man."

— Alex Martin

Island Coast 13, South Fort Myers 9

With its season on the brink of collapse, the Gators needed a big play.

And boy did Glenn Green deliver it.

Trailing 9-0 late in the third quarter and with the Wolfpack chewing up plenty of clock on a run-dominated drive, Green stepped in front of an errant Raheem Gibson pass and took it to the house on a scintillating 100-yard return. The Gators defense dominated the rest of the way, and Island Coast’s offense cashed in on a short field with a 39-yard drive to take the lead, capped by Gabe Fisher’s short touchdown run early in the fourth.

“We started off a little slow tonight and I really wanted to give our team a positive boost,” Green said. “I thought I was going to fall back when I first caught it, but I got my feet (under me) and I just tried to bring it back as far as I could. That gave us the momentum for sure, and I’m just happy to be there for my team.”

The Gators (6-3) avenged last month’s 21-14 loss to the Wolfpack and advanced to a regional quarterfinal matchup at Dunbar next Friday.

“We ain’t done yet,” Island Coast coach Elgin Hicks said. “Our guys have battled. They’ve been beat down and they haven’t quit. We’ve been grinding since June 15th and sometimes they wondered ‘why are we doing this’ but in the last couple weeks, when we started playing good, I told then ‘this is why we ran all those laps on the track. This is why we got up and did all the things we’ve done.’

"When a team has been beat down as much as they have been for the last four years, sometimes they just need a little bit of confidence, a little bit of belief, a little bit of love and that’s what’s going down right now. I’ve got a group of seniors that’s not quitting. They’re not ready to go home.”

Things certainly didn’t look good for the Gators early, as the Wolfpack scored on their first possession. Jerry Cooper’s 43-yard touchdown run put South up 6-0, and Valery Olivier’s 23-yard field goal pushed the advantage to 9-0 early in the second. Meanwhile, South’s defense put the clamps on Island Coast throughout much of the contest. But Green’s big play changed all of that.

“When (South) got down there (in the red zone), as a football guy, you talk to the football gods a little bit,” Hicks said. “And when that ball went up there and I saw Glenn Green, I just thought ‘don’t drop it.’ And when he caught the ball and started running (up the left sideline), I got out of the way, I got out of the official’s way and I thought he was going to get tackled at the 30 and I looked up and he was still running. And that was something we’ve been preaching to Glenn Green about. The first time we played them, we had a blocked punt and he got ran down by the punter and probably could have saved the game that time. But we just told him he’s a superstar, he’s just got to believe it. And the last couple weeks, he’s believed it.”

Andrew Sodergren

Cypress Lake 41, Sarasota Booker 12

Michael Lennett Jr. scored touchdowns on the Panthers’ first three possessions as Cypress Lake built a 35-0 halftime lead and rolled to the first playoff win in school history.

JD Sherrod threw three touchdown passes, including a pair of deep strikes to Kyrie Savoy in the second quarter. Trevontay Watts added a long touchdown run in the third quarter.

“Obviously this means so much and the kids were super proud after the game,” Cypress Lake coach Richie Rode said. “I’m so proud of this senior class, such a close-knit group that has worked so hard and come so far. Last year we took that first step of winning a district championship and hosting a playoff game but we fell a little short (losing to North Miami Beach 14-7 in the Class 5A regional quarterfinals). But they grinded for another year, throughout all the obstacles we’ve all had to face – being sent home in February, no spring practices, having to do meetings and practices virtually. These kids stayed focused.”

The Panthers faced their own set of challenges this week due to Hurricane Eta, losing a day of school (and a day of practice) Monday, calling off practice after a half-hour Tuesday due to lightning and then losing another day of practice Wednesday after school was called off early due to Eta’s second act on Southwest Florida. Rode scrapped the team’s usual walkthrough Thursday morning and opted for a two-hour practice but doing so made him a little nervous.

“I was worried we might work them too hard and then have this long drive and come out flat but that was far from the case,” Rode said. “We gave up a long drive on defense to start the game but shut them down after that, and our offense played a clean game the whole way. We drove on them at will, which was great to see.”

For Rode, he got a bit of personal revenge on the Tornadoes. Rode was a player on the 1995 district championship team – the last time Cypress Lake won a district title before last year – when Booker ended the Panthers’ season in the first round of the playoffs.

“I guess it’s a little revenge 25 years in the making,” Rode said. “It’s such a good feeling and we’ll get back to work next week and try and win another one.”

Cypress Lake (5-3) is back on the road next week, traveling to Hardee in the regional quarterfinals.

Dunbar 38, Belen Jesuit 0

The Tigers (6-2) blitzed the Wolverines (3-4) with 20 points in the first quarter as it rolled in a Class 6A playoff game at North Law Firm Stadium.

“That’s what you always want,” Dunbar coach Sammy Brown said. “When they spot you 20, that’s a great situation. We had one day of practice so we spent a lot of time in the film room. We knew their tendencies.”

Dunbar quarterback Daveon Palmer threw three touchdown passes while Deondrick McCutcheon scored twice in the first quarter. Anthony Benjamin and Bobby Dennis also caught TD passes while Terrod Kearse had a defensive score.

Palmer got things going when he connected with Benjamin on a 44-yard TD connection.  “It really starts with me,” Palmer said. “We trust each other and have good connections. We also play with our hearts.”

After he scored on a 1-yard run, McCutcheon took a quick pass from Palmer, made a couple of moves and found himself in the clear where he outraced the Belen Jesuit secondary to make it 20-0. “I saw the open field and I went out the gate,” he said.

Just before halftime, Reginald Davis made it 26-0 Dunbar when he powered in from 5 yards.

“When our passing game is on, it’s on,” Brown said. “But I like to hand it to our big guys. We have three great backs. Our offensive coordinator called a great game.”

A toss from Shaun Russ to Nick Thomas on a punt return got Dunbar cooking in the second half. With Thomas’ 75-yard return taking it to the Belen Jesuit 10, Dennis finished off the drive with a leaping, 10-yard catch.

A minute later, Kearse made it a running clock when he picked up a fumble and returned it 27 yards to put Dunbar up 38-0.

— Craig Handel

Lehigh 42, Sarasota 20

Sophomore running back Richard Young led the way for the Lightning with 242 rushing yards and a touchdown on just 13 carries as Lehigh won its first playoff game since 2009 in Class 7A play-in playoff game at Cleland Stadium.

Lehigh (5-4) ran for 331 yards and had 435 yards of total offense on the night. Tarvarish Dawson chipped in with two rushing touchdowns in addition to a 42-yard reception and nine carries for 57 yards. Senior quarterback Durand Bundy added two touchdowns and finished 6-for-10 through the air for 104 yards while completing passes to five different receivers.

Sarasota seniors Dom Bennett and Terrell Pack combined for 251 yards and three touchdowns.

Lehigh needed just four plays to travel 80 yards to score the game's first touchdown on a 15-yard run by Dawson with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter.

The teams combined to score 28 points with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. Lehigh started it with a 27-yard touchdown strike from Bundy to Alex Gonzales, and Sarasota responded as Bennett burst up the middle for a 73-yard touchdown run with 1:31 left in the half. 

It took Lehigh just 58 seconds to drive down the field and score again, this time on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Bundy to Dawson, to make it 21-7 with 28.5 seconds left before the half.  However, there was enough time left for Sarasota to zip down the field and score on a pass from quarterback Lance Trippel to Pack.

Lehigh extended its lead to 28-14 after Young broke through the Sailors defense for an 88-yard touchdown run with 6:29 left in the third quarter.

Sarasota drove the ball into Lightning territory again on its next drive, but the Sailors were stuffed at the line on a 4th-and-4 play, setting up another long run by Young and an eventual Lightning score.

Estero 19, Cape Coral 7

Estero junior running back Kendrick Agenor ran for two touchdowns and senior linebacker Sage Haislip recovered a fumble for a touchdown as the Wildcats won their first playoff game since 2001.

“We kept playing hard, executed, made some plays on defense, protected the ball on offense, and we just wore them down,” Wildcats coach Darren Nelson said. “We played really well.”

Cape Coral senior wide receiver Karim Babernitch rushed for a touchdown for the Seahawks' only score after a failed punt for Estero put Babernitch in a good situation to score.

“I’ll have to tell our punter to catch the ball with two hands and the long snapper to get the ball down better,” Nelson said.

— Sean O'Dea

Berkeley Prep 33, Bishop Verot 6

Early problems were too much for Bishop Verot to overcome Friday night as their season ended with a loss to Tampa Berkeley Prep in the state Class 3A playoffs.

"We ran into a buzzsaw," Vikings first-year coach John Mohring said.  

Berkeley Prep took the opening kick and drove down to score on Xavier Townsend's 1-yard run, then picked off a Vikings pass and took it back to the Vikings' 4.  From there, Travis Bates scored from the 1.  

"You can't do that against a great team like that," Mohring said.  "We were playing from behind against a good running team that controlled the clock."

The Bucs added a TD pass from Gavin Rupp to Townsend before halftime, and took advantage of a Vikings mistake in the third quarter to score a safety.  

Bates would add a second touchdown run in the third quarter, and Berkeley Prep also scored on a  a Brook Johnson field goal.

Deaglan Camron hit on field goals of 35 and 42 yards for Bishop Verot (6-5).

CSN 59, SFCA 13

Community School of Naples won its first postseason game in program history and will 

head to Fort Lauderdale to face Westminster in a Class 2A-Region 4 semifinal next Friday.

Senior Lovenson Xavier dominated the game on offense, defense, and special teams, setting the tone less than two minutes into the game when cruised through a big gap and took the ball 54 yards for a touchdown.

Xavier scored on a 29-yard rushing touchdown early in the second quarter. He capped off the game late in the fourth by returning a kickoff 97 yards. Xavier nearly had an interception return for a touchdown, but offsetting penalties nullified the play.

CSN quarterback Cael Persch was busy lighting up the scoreboard, too. He trotted in with a 17-yard run midway through the first quarter. A minute later, after Xavier picked off a pass to give CSN the ball on the SFCA 7, Persch lofted a pass to the back of the end zone and into the arms of a leaping Avery Brown. Persch also had a 30-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Chur in the second.

Though the King's (2-6) were outmatched, they managed to put up some fireworks. Late in the first quarter, SFCA quarterback Eli Moore lobbed a pass to Justin Rodgers, who adjusted his route to meet the pass, caught it, and took it in for a 68-yard touchdown. Moore threw another TD pass in the fourth, a 5-yarder to Kyle Peckham.

— Dave Montrose

Champagnat Catholic 42, First Baptist 0

Champagnat Catholic specialized in the big play Friday night as Tyous Taylor threw for 309 yards in a Class 2A-Reion 4 win. Donovan Jones also rushed for 138 yards and two scores.

First Baptist coach Billy Sparacio felt Champagnat (7-2) had too much of everything in the showdown.

"We made too many mistakes tonight, but that's not to take anything away from Champagnat," Sparacio said. "They were too fast and too strong, and we just came up sort. "

Rich Mellien led First Baptist (7-2) with 85 yards rushing. Tyler Coleman also ran for 53.

"I am disappointed, especially for all our seniors, " Sparacio said. "We worked hard all season, though, and the players did everything we asked them. "

— Tom Corwin

Homestead 25, Gulf Coast 13

Homestead jumped out to a 19-0 lead through three quarters and held on for a Class 7A play-in game win.

Yeremi Tatis got the Sharks on the board when he returned a blocked field 82 yards with 8:42 left. Konner Barrett scored in a 5-yard run with two minutes left but Gulf Coast would get no closer.

Next Week's Schedule

All Games at 7:30 p.m.

Class 7A Quarterfinals

St. Thomas Aquinas at Lehigh, 7:30

Riverdale at Venice, 7:30

Class 6A Quarterfinals

Island Coast at Dunbar, 7:30

Charlotte at Palmetto Ridge, 7:30

Naples at Barron Collier, 7:30

Lely at Miami Central, 7:30

Class 5A Quarterfinals

Rockledge at Estero, 7:30

Cypress Lake at Hardee, 7:30

Class 2A Semifinal

CSN at Westminster Academy, 7:30