With his team desperately trying to hold off Dunbar late in the fourth quarter of a game it once controlled, Island Coast junior running back Trey Boyd had one thought: get a first down.
Boyd did a whole lot more than that, breaking loose for a 65-yard touchdown run that propelled the host Gators to a 21-8 victory Friday and the District 5A-14 championship.
“It feels great to be honest,” said Boyd, who finished with 203 rushing yards and two touchdowns. “These guys are more than teammates to me. They’re like my brothers and I’m happy to be part of this.”
Island Coast (7-1, 5-0) built a 14-0 lead it carried into halftime on the strength of its running game. The Gators rolled up 248 total yards in the first half, 240 of which came on the ground.
“It was obvious their offensive line dominated the football game in the first half,” Dunbar coach Phil Vogt said.
The Tigers (5-3, 4-1) played Friday without two key starters, junior quarterback Daniel Cobb and senior defensive back Robert Byrd, who did not suit up for undisclosed reasons.
Cobb’s absence was especially damaging for Dunbar, which on three first-half possessions, drove inside the Island Coast 20 and came away with zero points.
The Tigers, however, remained in the game thanks to its defense, which played a tremendous second half, holding Island Coast without a first down in the third quarter.
Dunbar’s offense finally delivered in the fourth quarter when junior Bob Rice, subbing for Cobb at quarterback, hit senior wide receiver Joe Williams in stride for a 48-yard touchdown, capping a four-play, 95-yard drive. A two-point conversion run pulled the Tigers within 14-8 with 7:37 left.
After another Island Coast punt, Dunbar drove to the Gators 32, but four straight incompletions resulted in a turnover on downs.
On third-and-7 from the 35, Boyd took the handoff and broke outside toward the Island Coast sideline. Just when it appeared his momentum would carry him out of bounds, he cut back through a handful of Dunbar defenders and sprinted for the clinching touchdown.
“Good players make good plays when you need them,” Island Coast coach Joe Bowen said of Boyd. “We knew it was going to be a close, physical game. Our defense has been carrying us this season and they came through again tonight.”
The Gators gained just 86 second-half yards, 65 coming on Boyd’s touchdown.
“We locked them down in the second half, except for one play,” Vogt said. “We had opportunities to score. We just didn’t make the plays we needed to make.”
Rice and senior Jabaris Nixon, who also filled in at quarterback, combined to complete 11 of 27 passes for 175 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Williams caught four passes for 91 yards and senior Ryeshene Bronson had four catches for 78 yards.
Despite the loss, Dunbar secured the district runner-up spot when Lemon Bay beat North Fort Myers.
I: Zelan Lambert 21 run (Quinn Bourque kick)
I: Trey Boyd 15 run (Bourque kick)
D: Joe Williams 48 pass from Bob Rice (Tajze Battle run)
I: Boyd 65 run (Bourque kick)