It wasn't going to be easy for Mariner High School to beat Island Coast Friday night. Mistakes made it impossible.
Island Coast (2-1) dominated play in handing Mariner (2-1) its first loss of the season, taking advantage of three fumbles and other Mariner mishaps in a 52-7 victory.
"That's a good football team over there, and we made them look excellent," Tritons coach Chris Siner said. "We spotted them 17 points, and we aren't going to beat any teams spotting them 17 points."
Island Coast senior T.J. Johnson keeps his balance after breaking a tackle on a first-quarter touchdown run in Friday’s 52-7 win over Mariner.
The Gators took advantage of early Mariner mistakes and didn't look back. A high snap on Mariner's first punt set up T.J. Johnson's 14-yard run for a Gators touchdown. Shortly thereafter Nick Guffey recovered a Mariner fumble, leading to Kevin Vigne's 25-yard field goal.
Kurt Benkert ran 55 yards on a keeper and hit Ter'Rhone Franklin for a 28-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-0 before the first quarter ended. Devon Calhoun scored on a one-yard run in the second quarter.
"Defensively I'm very happy," Gators coach Joe Bowen said. "We stepped it up defensively. Offensively it wasn't one of our best performances."
Calhoun had 73 of his 77 rushing yards in the first half. Johnson finished with 59 yards rushing and two scores.
Jacob Martin caught a 10-yard pass from Joey Lantz for Mariner's touchdown.
A Lantz fumble on the Gators' 6 in the third quarter ended the Tritons' bid for a second score.
Vincent Green had a spectacular 75-yard punt return in the third quarter, while Johnson scored on a 26-yard run and Benkert connected with Franklin for 54 yards and a TD in the final period.
Benkert completed 9 of 26 passes for 169 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. For Mariner, Lantz was 9 of 21 for 120 yards and one TD passing.
Island Coast held Mariner to 51 rushing yards.
"With Kurt everybody thinks we're going to throw it all over the place," Bowen said. "We want to be balanced."
Siner challenged his team after the game: "Are we going to be a team that bounces back or are we going to collapse like we used to? Are we the old Mariner or the new Mariner?"
The Tritons will try to bounce back at home against Lehigh next Friday in District 5A-11. Island Coast, meanwhile, takes on District 6A-11 rival North Fort Myers in a road game.
Bowen said, "We are still a very young football team. We are coming into a tough stretch of our schedule and I want to keep them hungry."
Mariner 0 7 0 0 - 7
Island Coast 24 7 7 14 - 52
IC - T.J. Johnson 14 run (Kevin Vigne kick)
IC - FG, Vigne 25
IC - Kent Benkert 55 run (Vigne kick)
IC - Ter'Rhone Franklin 28 pass from Benkert (Vigne kick)
M - Jacob Martin 10 pass from Joey Lantz (Justin Kuchle kick)
IC - Vincent Green 75 punt return (Vigne kick)
IC - Johnson 26 run (Vigne kick)
IC - Franklin 54 pass from Benkert (Vigne kick)