Mariner miscues and big offensive plays helped Dunbar to a 40-10 victory on Friday night.
The win, along with Immokalee’s win over Lely, created a tie for first place in District 5A-12.
The Tigers (7-2, 3-1 in 5A-12) will host the Indians and Trojans in a tiebreaking contest to determine the district champion and runner-up on Monday at 7 p.m. That leaves the Tigers enough time for a Saturday film session and not much else to prepare for the biggest day of the season to this point.
“There’s not much you can do in a couple days,” Dunbar coach Sammy Brown said. “You can have a little get-together and a little practice, but that’s about it.”
Mariner (3-6, 1-3) had the lead for about a minute after Andrew Kibler kicked a 29-yard field goal. But on the ensuing kickoff, the Tritons attempted an onside kick. Dunbar’s recovery of that kick and a horse-collar tackle penalty gave the Tigers the ball at the 49.
“I’m proud of the way that we moved the ball in the first half,” Mariner coach Travis Smith said. “It’s just we kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”
On the ensuing drive, Lajuan Preston ran four straight rushes, the first for 35 yards. The scoring play was a 5-yarder that saw Preston bounce off one tackler and drag another into the end zone. Xavier McDonald’s kick made it 7-3.
“Things are working with the running game,” Brown said. “We tried to lean on Lajuan Preston a little bit and things worked out for us.”
The Tigers opened up the game in the second quarter. After the punt protection broke down, Dunbar started a drive on the Mariner 17, scoring on one play as Kenny Benjamin ran a sweep to the left side. On the following kickoff, Mariner returners backed away from the ball, and Trevon Kennedy recovered it for Dunbar. That set up a 10-yard touchdown run by Keanu Young.
“That was a big hustle play,” Brown said of Kennedy’s recovery.
Benjamin scored again later in the period, catching a pass from Tariq Thomas in the end zone. Starting quarterback Jairus Johnson launched a 70-yard bomb to Seneca Milledge as time expired for the half, making it 33-3.
“Seneca is a very versatile athlete,” Brown said. “You can put him anywhere that you want the ball to go and big things can happen.”
A freak special teams play triggered a running clock as the third quarter began. On the opening kickoff return, Young lost the ball as he was hit and it went right into the hands of Shanon Reid, who ran it 60 yards for a touchdown.
The Tritons managed one big offensive play later in the third quarter as Eric Preston broke free for a 56-yard touchdown run. Kibler’s kick made it 40-10.
Lajuan Preston carried the ball 11 times for 76 yards.
DUNBAR 40, MARINER 10
D 7 26 7 0 — 40
M 3 0 7 0 — 10
M — Andrew Kibler 29 field goal; 5:52
D — Lajuan Preston 5 run (Xavier McDonald kick)
D — Kenny Benjamin 17 run (McDonald kick); 11:09
D — Keanu Young 10 run (kick blocked); 9:51
D — Benjamin 4 pass from Tariq Thomas (kick blocked); 1:52
D — Seneca Milledge 70 pass from Jairus Johnson (McDonald kick); 0:00
D — Shanon Reid 60 fumble recovery (McDonald kick); 11:40
MHS — Eric Preston 56 run (Kibler kick); 7:05