Big plays, they often make or break a high school a high school football game, except for Friday night at Thomas Broomhead Memorial Stadium, where there almost weren’t any.
Mariner defeated Cypress Lake 14-6 with a suffocating defense that made up for an offense that produced just one play of 25 yards or more.
But that 55-yard run by senior running back Eric Preston led to a 9-yard touchdown run by senior running back Chance Reiter for a 7-0 lead, all they needed, with four minutes and 57 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Reiter rushed for 107 yards on 20 carries. He scored his team’s second touchdown, too, on a 7-yard run with 2:51 remaining in the third quarter.
“Chase had a great game,” said Mariner coach Travis Smith, whose team improved to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in District 5A-12 competition. Cypress Lake fell to 2-2 and 0-1.
“We’re still growing on offense, but we’re getting better,” Smith said.
Cypress Lake, with 12 penalties for 125 yards, had trouble getting into a rhythm on offense. Senior running back Isaiah Thomas finished with 113 yards on 20 carries, including a 3-yard touchdown run with 1:48 remaining in the second quarter. The Panthers had just one play of 25 yards or more, a 25-yard run by sophomore Kelsey Demps.
“We played very sloppy,” said first-year coach Richie Rode. “We were very undisciplined. We had way too many penalties.
“We knew coming in that they had a good defense. They fly around to the ball.”
Smith raved about his team’s effort on defense, singling out a pair of linebackers.
“Hunter Rees has really turned into a special kind of a leader out there,” Smith said. “Him and Geovanni Garcia, they’re the heart and soul of our team out there. They’re always making plays.”
Rees said he had seven-to-eight tackles and a sack.
“We just need to keep it up,” Rees said. “We’re 3-1, 1-0 in the district. Reiter did an outstanding job, playing on both sides of the ball.”
The Cypress Lake Panthers play host to Cape Coral next week. Mariner plays at home against North Fort Myers.
Smith, in his third season at the helm of the Tritons, led the team to 1-9 record in 2014, 4-6 in 2015 and so far 3-1 in 2016.
“The kids believe,” Smith said. “They believe in what we’re teaching. We teach them how to be a man. We talk a lot about off-field stuff. And the kids are buying into it.”
Mariner 0 7 0 7 – 14
Cypress Lake 0 6 0 0 – 6
M: Chance Reiter 9 run (Andrew Kibler kick), 4:57
CL: Isaiah Thomas 3 run (pass failed), 1:48
M: Reiter 7 run (Kibler kick), 2:51
Passing: M: Cairo Jeunegen 3-13-0-24. CL: Joe Lemoine 1-12-1-1, Keyon Brawner 0-1-0-0.
Rushing: M: Chance Reiter 20-107, Joey Lane 3-10, Cairo Jeunegen 10-(-2), Christian Butz 1-2, Eric Preston 4-69, Garcia Geovanni 3-16. CL: Isaiah Thomas 20-113, Joe Lemoine 2-1, Chris Joseph 6-13, Kelsey Demps 5-55, Keyon Brawner 3-8, Ben Riley 1-3.
Receiving: M: Christopher Ramsey 3-24. CL: Jerry Ridley 1-1.