East Lee County capitalized on four Mariner turnovers and cruised to a 49-7 victory in a 5A District 11 conference game pushed to Saturday afternoon because of inclement weather Friday night.
Mariner (2-3, 0-2 conference) started the game well, gaining two first downs in its first possession, and holding the Jaguars out of the end zone after a long punt return gave them great field position. But then the wheels came off offensively for Mariner. On three of their next four possessions, the Tritons gave up defensive touchdowns by the Jaguars. An interception returned 38 yards into the end zone, and two fumbles picked up and returned - 70 and 28 yards, respectively - for touchdowns gave East Lee a 22-0 lead in the first quarter, and demoralized the Tritons.
"This was a first for me," said East Lee Head Coach Scott Jones, referring to the three defensive touchdowns. "I've had teams that score once on defense, but never this much."
In the end, East Lee County (3-2, 2-0 conference) scored seven touchdowns, and four were scored by the defense. A second pick-six happened in the second half.
Because of the postponement, both teams had to regroup and re-motivate themselves for Saturday's game. Unfortunately for Head Coach Chris Siner's Tritons, a couple of their starters were physically spent. Quarterback Joey Lantz and running back Eric Russaw left the game in the first quarter, and didn't see action in the second half because of dehydration.
"They (East Lee) were in the same position that we were, but they were better prepared." said Siner.
"We made those errors in the first quarter, and we can't afford to do that against a team like East Lee. Our offense was inept, and we were getting beat up front," he continued.
Jones expressed his pleasure in the way his team has turned around since being defeated badly in its first two games of the season.
"Our players' mindset is that we can play at any time and we'll be focused," said Jones. "Our defense is tough. They're playing aggressively."
Mariner's lone touchdown came in the second quarter when the Tritons drove 74 yards in six plays. Lantz' replacement at quarterback, Jonah Markovits, accounted for 66 of those yards. The last 41 came when he hit Rodney Hunter on a slant route, and Hunter sliced the defense and raced for the score.
With the win, East Lee set up a huge game against arch-rival Lehigh in two weeks that will greatly affect who wins 5A District 11 this year.
East Lee County travels to Vero Beach next Friday while Mariner travels to Port Charlotte.
Mariner 0 7 0 0 -- 7
East Lee 22 7 20 0 -- 49
ELC -- Kendall Sawyer 38 interception return (Sheldon Fleming pass from David Campbell)
ELC -- Peter Gooden 70 fumble return (pass failed)
ELC -- Michael Green 28 fumble return (Bryant Richardson pass from Campbell)
ELC -- Omaris Tolbert 45 pass from Winfred Ward (Green kick)
M -- Rodney Hunter 41 pass from Jonah Markovits (Sean Gartlan kick)
ELC -- Sawyer 1 run (Fleming pass from Campbell)
ELC -- Richardson 8 run (kick failed)
ELC -- Endy Rinvil 30 (kick failed)