Lehigh spoiled the inaugural game for new North Fort Myers football coach Ernest Graham Friday night. The Lightning and the Red Knights each had swings of offensive momentum, and showed signs of what is to come in the fall.
In a well-fought game, the Lightning prevailed 30-28 with the difference being a late field goal.
Graham started the game playing his second team, and Lehigh took advantage by scoring three early touchdowns. On its first possession, Lehigh was fourth-and-four at the Knights' 30. Quarterback Robert Clay kept the ball to the right side and went 30 yards for the score. He added a second long score of 48 yards just a few minutes later.
Clay then connected with Andre Thomas-Cobb on a 24-yard TD early in the second quarter. Clay and Cobb combined for seven completions and 116 yards on the night. It looked like a runaway early.
The momentum swung in the Red Knights' favor. After a short punt late in the quarter, North had possession deep in Lightning territory. Jacob Duff hit Kyle Shreffler from 13 yards out and the Knights were on the board with 10 seconds left in the half.
Lehigh could not move the ball on its first possession of the second half. When North took it 53 yards in eight plays, helped by a personal foul against the Lightning. Now the Knights were within one score.
Lehigh responded by getting a couple of first downs, but then coughed up the ball. North used the pass, run, and a penalty to drive down the field again. When Zach St. Amand ran through the left side of the line, North tied the game with 11:22 left in the fourth quarter.
The next series was crucial. On the first play, Clay ran up the middle and appeared to be stopped by several Knights after a short gain. However, the whistle never blew, and Clay escaped their grasp and darted 80 yards for a touchdown.
The Lightning stopped the Knights, and drove all the way to the 2-yard line. On second-and-goal, Clay fumbled the snap and was tackled at the 12. A personal foul penalty was tacked onto that, and Lehigh was all the way back to the 27. They gained 12 yards on third down, and settled for a 32-yard field goal by Neftali Alva with 3:59 left. Alva double-clutched his approach to the ball, but still had enough leg to get it through the uprights.
North answered quickly as Duff broke through and ran 57 yards for a TD with 2:40 left. North had all of its timeouts left, but could not stop the Lightning from getting two first downs and running out the clock.
Clay accounted for 316 of the Lightning's 361 yards. He ran for 195.
The Knights shared the ball much more. Six different players ran the ball racking up 209 yards rushing. Duff was 6-for-8 passing for 70 yards.
"Mentality. We couldn't be prouder of those kids," said Graham. "Being down three touchdowns early, they could have given up, but they fought through the adversity."
North FM0 7 7 14 - 28
Lehigh14 7 0 9 - 30
L - Clay 38 run (Alva kick)
L - Clay 30 run (Alva kick)
L - Thomas-Cobb 24 pass from Clay (Alva kick)
NFM - Shreffler 13 pass from Duff (Gentile kick)
NFM - Sheridan 12 pass from Duff (Gentile kick)
NFM - St. Amand (Gentile kick)
L - Clay 80 run (kick failed)
L - FG, Alva 32
NFM - Duff 57 run (Gentile kick)