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Ida Baker hangs on to top Mariner, 17-14

August 24, 2019
By PETE SISK ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

There's an old cliche in football that a team's biggest improvement comes between its first and second games.

It's been around long enough to become a cliche because there's something to it.

The Ida Baker Bulldogs jumped on Mariner mistakes early, then held on Friday night for a 17-14 victory in coach Chuck Faucette's debut with the Bulldogs.

"They're going to give me heart attacks," Faucette said of his team. "They're going to be the cardiac kids until they grow up.

"At the beginning of the year I told the guys that people aren't expecting a lot of us. We're going to take the win. We've got some good players over there, and they're working hard, and they're starting to understand the process."

Ida Baker managed to get in its preseason game at North Port on Aug. 16, while Mariner's contest with Charlotte fell victim to stalled negotiations with referees. That dispute wasn't settled until late in the afternoon on Aug. 16, not leaving enough time to get everyone together to play.

That made a big difference in the first half on Friday.

"Not having a game last week killed us," Mariner coach Travis Smith said. "That's the bottom line. That's what those kickoff classics are for.

"It's unfortunate that the two parties couldn't come together and make it happen for us last week. I think it would have been a different game tonight, but the bottom line is that we had first-game mistakes."

Big return plays coming off Mariner mistakes propelled Ida Baker into the lead.

Sebastian Grafmyre got things going in a hurry, running back the opening kickoff 80 yards for a Bulldogs touchdown.

The Tritons responded well on their first possession, moving downfield on an 11-play drive capped by Cade Reynolds's 15-yard run.

Reynolds finished the night with 123 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

However, on Mariner's next possession, a bad pitchout wound up in the hands of Bulldogs defender Bruce Austin, who took it 25 yards to give Ida Baker a 14-6 advantage.

"Those first couple of series they got us, they surprised us," Smith said. "They got the kickoff return, and then the fumble and fumble return for a touchdown. If they don't make those, we win the game."

Jacob Holbrook recovered a Tritons fumble before the first quarter ended. Ida Baker drove inside the Mariner 5 before stalling. Joseph Nappoli kicked a 21-yard field goal 8:08 before halftime.

The Tritons' Jacob Manning blocked a Napoli 31-yard field goal attempt with seven seconds remaining to keep the margin 17-6 at intermission.

The second half was another story.

"They're a good team and they played hard," Faucette said of the Tritons. "That number 28 (Reynolds) is a heck of a football player.

A 20-yard Nick Longo run on a fake punt gave the Tritons life in the third quarter. A drive that featured a 30-yard Dylan Hinz pass was capped by Reynolds' 22-yard TD run. Hinz ran in for a conversion to bring Mariner within 17-14.

Vitco Mieses, leading Baker on the ground with 68 yards rushing at the time, bobbled a punt late in the third quarter. Mieses recovered, but was shaken up and the Bulldogs were pinned deep in their own end.

Devitt Ashton sacked Eric Swanson on the 5 to end the third quarter. An Ida Baker punt gave Mariner great field position at the Bulldogs' 40.

But on the ensuing series, and for the rest of the night, the Ida Baker defense made the stops it needed to make.

"They got after us. With the running lanes, we made a few adjustments," Faucette said of his defense.

"We've got a long way to go. We've got growing pains. We've got a lot of young guys. We left a lot of things on the field and made sophomore mistakes that we can't afford to make down the road."

Mieses would return to the game, finishing the night with 103 yards on the ground.

A huge play both helped and hurt the Mariner cause in the fourth quarter.

The Tritons' defense pulled off the tip drill to perfection, with Hinz -- the third defender to touch the ball -- making an interception near midfield. However, Hinz injured his left foot or ankle on the play and wasn't able to resume his role at quarterback.

"We lost the quarterback, we put the ball on the ground too many times," Smith said.

Faucette said, "It's always good when you go on the road, you make those mistakes and you still win."

Mariner will take on another West Zone rival next Friday at Island Coast. Ida Baker will play on the road again next Friday, traveling to Bonita Springs to take on a Bull Sharks team in its first season of varsity competition.

IDA BAKER 14 3 0 0 -- 17

MARINER 6 0 7 0 -- 14

1st quarter

IB: Sebastrian Grafmyre, 80-yard KO return (Joseph Nappoli kick) 11:46.

M - Cade Reynolds, 15-yard run (kick failed) 7:07.

IB - Bruce Austin, 25-yard fumble return (Nappoli kick) 2:45.

2nd quarter

IB - Nappoli, 21-yard FG 8:08.

3rd quarter

M - Reynolds, 22-yard run (Hinz run) 6:54.

Other games

Lely 15, Island Coast 8: Jason Joseph hit Emmanuel Saint-Luc from 10 yards out for the Gators' touchdown. The score was 7-0 through three quarters. Lely led 15-0 until the game's final minute. The Gators will be home next Friday against Mariner.

Oasis 17, Lakeland Christian 13: The Sharks opened the season with an upset, come-from-behind road victory. Daniel Rennie hit Jaron Newson with the winning touchdown pass in the game's final moments. Oasis has its home opener next Friday against Neumann.

Bishop Verot 19, Barron Collier 7: The Vikings went down to Naples to open the season and came home with a win. Jacob Azizi and Malik Curtis connected on a 60-yard TD pass, and Azizi ran 58 yards for another score. Bishop Verot also scored on Nick Perez's 2-yard run. The Vikings travel again next week, playing at Lakeland Christian.



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