Estero clinched its second consecutive playoff berth Friday, defeating Palmetto Ridge 41-21 in Naples, but it came at a heavy cost.
Late in the third quarter, Cody Long broke off a 22-yard run, but after a collision at the end of the play, the junior quarterback for Estero went down and did not return.
“He’s got a broken arm,” Estero coach Mark Jackson said. “He’s done for the year.
Long finished with 226 yards passing and 22 completions on 33 attempts and a touchdown, along with 39 yards rushing.
The Wildcats shifted into a single-wing offense after the quarterback’s departure, with senior Zimon Brennan taking over most of the workload. Brennan rushed for three touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter, finishing with 77 yards rushing on 17 carries. Fellow senior Ryan Keegan also added a touchdown in the second half.
“We started fighting and fighting in the second half, and when our quarterback got knocked out, we rose to the challenge and bonded together,” Brennan said.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling. I came here this year and my team accepted me, and we’re ready to take everything we’ve got ahead of us.”
In a game where everything was on the line, both teams dug deep into their playbooks. The Wildcats scored first on a 25-yard halfback pass from Sam Katona to Nick Nataro.
Nataro added a second touchdown from long in the second, finishing with 94 yards receiving on six receptions.
The Bears returned in kind, with senior running back Ron Johnson tossing a 55-yard pass to junior Jaden Sanchez, which set up Johnson’s first score. Each team also attempted a fake punt, with neither succeeding.
“All year long we’ve talked about buying in,” Jackson said. “We got everyone to buy in tonight. We wore them down in the second half and finished. This is great for our kids. We put the single-wing package as a backup plan, and Zimon has done a great job in it.”
Johnson finished with 96 yards on 19 carries and three touchdowns. However, four second-half turnovers by Bears quarterback Andy Garcia led to 20 points for the Wildcats.
“This is very disappointing for us,” said Palmetto Ridge coach Ryan Mitchell. “The second half just wasn’t very good. I just told the kids that I’m sorry, and that when we get another chance like this, we have to fulfill our jobs.”
E: Nick Nataro 25 Pass from Sam Katona(Marshall Wilson kick)
PR: Ron Johnson 11 Run(Kyle Griffin kick)
E: Nataro 14 Pass from Cody Long(Wilson kick)
PR: Johnson 3 Run(Griffin kick)
PR: Johnson 14 Run(Griffin kick)
E: Zimon Brennan 3 Run(Wilson kick)
E: Ryan Keegan 7 Run(Wilson kick)
E: Brennan 7 Run(Wilson kick)
E: Brannan 8 Run(kick failed)