During a bye week following back-to-back losses in its district opener to Lely and in a non-district rivalry game against South Fort Myers, Dunbar’s captains vowed to not lose another game the rest of the season. If the Tigers just continued to win a postseason berth and maybe a District 5A-12 title wouldn’t be out of the question.
They’ve made good on that promise and seized a huge opportunity Monday night. Dunbar (7-2) got a kickoff return for a touchdown from Kenny Benjamin and a long Seneca Milledge run for a touchdown to beat Immokalee 14-7 in a 12-minute 5A-12 tiebreaker game and repeat as district champions.
Hosting a first-round playoff game seemed like a pipe dream after the Tigers surrendered a double-digit lead against Lely on Sept. 16.
“I’m just so proud of my team,” said Milledge, whose team will host 5A-11 runner-up Bradenton Southeast in a regional quarterfinal Nov 11. “After those downfalls we didn’t hang our heads. We kept our heads up. We came out with a bang. We took it back. God did this for a reason. It was supposed to be ours from the get-go. He put it here. We had to take it.”
First-year Dunbar coach Sammy Brown heaped a ton of praise on his team captains for the way they handled having their backs up against the wall for more than a month.
“Our captains took this thing over,” Brown said. “Coaches just came out to practice and did a hell of a job trying to get the kids situated. But it was really up to the captains. They made sure we weren’t going to lose.”
With Immokalee coming off a 7-0 win over Lely in the first 12-minute game, a victory that ended up securing the district runner-up spot, Benjamin took the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to go up 6-0.
The Tigers defense racked up a few penalties to aid the Indian’s first offensive drive that ended in a 13-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback RJ Rosales to Clauderson Louissaint with 10:05 left.
Milledge answered quickly with a 50-yard score off a jet sweep.
“Touchdown, district champs. That’s all I thought, baby,” Milledge said.
A designed fake extra point where Tariq Thomas, acting as the holder, took the snap and lofted a pass to Shanon Reid toward the back of the end zone put Dunbar up 14-7.
From there, the defense forced two punts and the Tigers were able to run out the clock.
Rosales completed 6 of 9 passes for 107 yards as Immokalee beat Lely for the second time in four days. The biggest play came on a 38-yard strike to Jean Sanon on the Indians’ second drive, which set them up at the 1-yard line and a Fred Green touchdown.
Linebacker Jaquan Gray added an interception of Lely quarterback Jacquez Carter on a screen pass on the Trojans’ second drive.
The Indians will travel to 5A-11 champion Wauchula Hardee for the first round of the playoffs.