By JONATHAN BLIKSTAD
Special to the Breeze
Three weeks is asking a lot of high school football players to learn a completely new offense, but the Mariner Tritons took on the challenge this spring and showed signs for optimism in the fall.
Mariner linebacker Jacob Martin (42) is fired up after he and a few of his Tritons teammates stop a Lemon Bay drive on fourth down Thursday night. More photos are available online at: cu.cape-coral-daily-breeze.com.
The Tritons have been a triple-option, run-oriented team for a number of years, but new offensive coordinator Mike Kelly was hired to install a more pass oriented game plan.
"We threw more today than we have in the past 15 years," Tritons coach Chris Siner said after Thursday night's 23-14 loss to Lemon Bay in the Spring Classic at Tony McKenna Field. "We had three weeks of a brand new offense. Everyone was wearing wristbands."
Kelly comes to Mariner having previously been a head coach in the Canadian Football League.
Mariner's transformation started at quarterback. Having lost 10 of 11 starters on offense, the Tritons must find a new leader between incoming junior Jonah Markovits and incoming sophomore Jacob Ward.
Markovits started and was replaced by Ward after throwing two interceptions. In the fourth quarter, Ward was injured in a hard hit and Markovits finished the game.
"Neither player separated themselves from the other," Siner said.
Markovits led the Tritons to both scoring drives. On the game's first drive he hit Kyle Anderson with a 71-yard pass play to set up Eric Russaw's six-yard TD run. In the fourth quarter, Markovits hit Kaleb McClellan with a 14-yard TD pass. He ended up 4-of-10 for 112 yards with two interceptions. Ward was 2-of-9 for 52 yards and two interceptions.
Eight different runningbacks carried the ball 29 times for 108 yards.
"You have to be two dimensional in order to compete," Siner said.
The Tritons' young defense played well, especially in the second half. After giving up the three touchdowns in the first 20 minutes, they did not allow another score.
Lemon Bay7 16 0 0 - 23
Mariner7 0 0 7 - 14
M - Eric Russaw 6 run (Justin Kuchle kick)
LB - Lucas Sparks 29 run (Josh Kennedy kick)
LB - Sparks 9 run (Kennedy kick)
LB - Dakota Reigle 25 pass from Sparks (Kennedy kick)
LB - Safety, Jacob Ward tackled in end zone
M - Kaleb McClellan 14 pass from Jonah Markovits (Kuchle kick)
Sports Editor Jim Linette contributed to this report.