Ida Baker's second appearance in the state football playoffs began with confidence and promise bolstered by achieving the program's best season record (9-1) in its nine-year history.
It ended in disappointment last Friday night on the field at Winter Haven in the in the Region 6A-3 quarterfinal playoff round. A potential game-extending 49-yard field goal attempt by Filander Barahona fell harmlessly short of the mark sending the Bulldogs (9-2) home with a 38-35 defeat.
The Bulldogs also lost to Charlotte 27-7 in the first round of the playoffs in 2009, making them 0-2 in postseason.
Still, the Bulldogs take pride in putting together an impressive season, winning their first seven games. Their only loss came against South Fort Myers, 42-17, in what proved to be the district 6A-12 championship game.
"It was a clean game with no turnovers," lamented Bulldogs coach Brian Conn. "Looking back you can think of a dozen plays and say what if? A questionable pass interference call late helped set up their game-winning touchdown."
In Friday's game, Winter Haven scored first. Baker took a one-point lead on a 36-yard touchdown run by quarterback Sage Attwood, his first of three running TDs on the night. That scenario continued throughout the game as the teams alternated scoring and taking the lead - 10 times in all.
Attwood, who had a hand in every Bulldogs scoring play, found Roy Denson for a 21-yard scoring strike before the end of the first quarter and a 14-13 lead. Geordan Hoagland caught a 40-yard scoring pass from Attwood in the second period as the Bulldogs led 21-20 at halftime.
Attwood's eight-yard run to the end zone to open the fourth quarter put the Bulldogs up 28-23. Another eight-yard TD run by Attwood had the Bulldogs in front 35-31 with time getting short.
There was just enough time for Winter Haven (9-2) to punch in one more touchdown on a short pass play to lead 38-35 with less than a minute remaining.
That set up the Bulldogs' last-ditch field goal attempt from near midfield that came up short.
"We had 21 seniors who were there when the varsity went 0-10," said Conn, the Bulldogs' only varsity coach. "They all stuck together and worked hard in the offseason. We had a lot of guys back from the year before, including our quarterback."
All in all it was a bad night of playoff football for Lee County. Island Coast lost its quarterfinal game on its home field. Estero, Dunbar and Bishop Verot also lost first-round matchups
South Fort Myers was the only team to advance with a 28-16 victory over Lake Gibson.
In Charlotte County, Charlotte lost to Melbourne while Port Charlotte advanced with a 14-10 win over Eau Galle.
In Collier County, Naples, Immokalee and First Baptist Academy all advanced.
Ida Baker 14 7 0 14 - 35
Winter Haven 13 7 3 15 - 38
Booker 33, Island Coast 27: Impossible. Controversial. Heartbreak-ing.
Just a few descriptions as victory slipped form the Gators grasp in the Region 5A-4 quarterfinals.
The officials played a huge role in the outcome. It seemed as though the Gators had held off the Tornadoes when they blocked Miguel Rebollo's extra-point attempt with 26 seconds left.
Trailing 27-26, Booker opted for the onside kick. It appeared the Tornadoes touched the ball before it went 10 yards, so even though they recovered the kick it would have been a penalty and Island Coast's ball.
After one of the many conferences among the officiating crew during the night, the ruling on the field was the Gators (7-3) touched the ball first and Booker was awarded possession.
Gators coach Joe Bowen addressed the issue as carefully as he could.
"I can't make any comments on that. I can't make any comments on that," he said. "It is what it is. You can write what you thought, but I can't. Our (side) official dropped the bag that meant they touched it at the 8-yard mark. Then they said somebody else - they said we touched it. They said we touched it first, but the guy on our side said they touched it first."
On the next play, Jermiah Henderson threw a perfect 51-yard touchdown pass to a well-covered Marlon Mack. After another officials conference, the Tornadoes had the TD and the win.
The Tornadoes erased the Gators 27-13 lead in the final 8:52 of the game.
"Hopefully we'll learn from this and maybe next year be a little better than this," Bowen said.
Booker 0 13 0 20 - 33
Island Coast 0 6 21 0 - 27
IC - FG, Bourque 26
B - Waters 45 pass from Henderson (Rebollo kick)
B - Mack 10 run (kick failed)
IC - FG, Bourque 28
IC - Boyd 63 run (Bourque kick)
IC - Bourque 6 run (Bourque kick)
IC - Murphy 15 interception return (Bourque kick)
B - Mack 10 run (Rebollo kick)
B - Jones 8 pass from Henderson (kick blocked)
B - Mack 51 pass from Hendeson (Rebollo kick)
Freelance writer Pete Sisk contributed to this report.