It wasn’t hard after his team’s 26-10 loss in the Class 5A regional semifinals Friday night for Merritt Island coach Jeff McLean to paraphrase the entire game in one sentence.
“They’ve just got great athletes,” McLean said.
And that was the difference in Merritt Island’s second consecutive regional semifinal loss to Glades Central (8-4).
Will Likely (172 total yards and two touchdowns) and David Bailey (69 total yards, two touchdowns) were simply too much for the Mustangs, whose sustained drives didn’t quite kill the clock enough to keep Central’s major offensive weapons from doing their weekly damage.
Likely’s six plays for 10 or more yards each came at critical moments, especially his 51-yard catch-and-run from a screen pass that set up Glades Central’s third touchdown of the night. Bailey caught a 32-yard bomb down the right sideline to set up another score, and his 16-yard catch for a touchdown in the fourth quarter was the final dagger.
“We knew they would come out and play hard,” Likely said of Merritt Island. “They had a bad taste in their mouths from last year. We just had to match them on our field.”
Merritt Island (10-2) responded to Glades Central’s first touchdown with an 18-play, 71-yard drive, but it stalled at the Central 4-yard line. Dylan Barnas nailed the short field goal with 1:24 left in the first half to make it 7-3, but that goal-line stand gave Central all kinds of momentum.
Merritt Island’s best answer was another sustained drive, capped by an electrifying 41-yard touchdown sprint by Taquan Kelly. But that was the night’s last highlight reel for the Mustangs, whose lost fumble and five badly-timed penalties did them in.
“We made some mental mistakes,” McLean said. “We had a nice drive going and we had two guys jump on false starts and then a bad snap over our quarterback’s head. That’s football.”