MERRITT ISLAND – Merritt Island overcame a flat start to down Ponte Vedra 21-10 on Friday night.
“We really weren’t playing up to par at the beginning of the game but our coach (Jeff McLean) gave us a nice pep talk and it really stepped us up and our game improved,” said Merritt Island quarterback Kyle Coleman.
The Mustangs were riddled with penalties and offensive inefficiency in the first half, allowing a 3-6 Sharks team to hang with them and even have a slim 3-0 lead for much of the second quarter.
But senior Chris Matthias, normally a defensive stalwart, came on at running back just before the half and seemed to give the team a spark with some tough running. That led to Coleman finding Tucker Bennett on a 42-yard touchdown pass just before the half that gave the Mustangs a 7-3 lead.
“We were playing with no emotion, playing flat and we had to have something happen to get the kids fired up and I think Matthias came in and gave us a little excitement going into halftime,” said McLean. “We tell the kids all the time, you know football’s an emotional, passionate game and you’ve got to play like that and we weren’t playing like that.”
KEY PLAYERS: Coleman completed 10 passes to eight different receivers for 134 yards and a touchdown. For the Sharks, Nick Tronti completed 17-of-34 passes for 164 yards while Zach Wawrzyniak caught 9 passes for 98 yards.
WHAT’S NEXT: Merritt Island finishes the regular season at 9-1 overall. They’ll host Mt. Dora next week in a first-round playoff contest. Ponte Vedra finishes the year at 3-7.
THEY SAID IT: “It can be,” said McLean of how challenging it can be to motivate a team in the final game when not facing a rival. “but it’s Senior Night, their last regular-season game, so I think that added to them and I’m sure the kids may have been looking ahead, but from now on, you can’t look ahead.”
“It’s just such an amazing achievement. These past four years with all my seniors, it’s just been an experience of a lifetime winning four straight district championships,” added Coleman, a senior after his last regular-season home game.