North Fort Myers running back Zaquandre White was held in check on a tender ankle, but the Red Knights scarcely needed him in a 34-21 win at Mariner.
The Red Knights (3-1) racked up more than 300 yards in the first half alone to lead 27-7 at the break, when White had 36 yards on seven carries. He finished with 51 yards on 11 runs.
Sophomore Hunter Kobylanski, freshman Terry Lindsey and White all scored on the ground in the first half, when Mariner (3-2) got some life on offense from junior quarterback Hunter Rees but had little answer on defense, surrendering 191 yards on 23 carries by the break.
“We came out kind of off in the first half,” said Mariner coach Travis Smith. “We played from behind the game. We lost the turnover battle and we didn’t tackle well. We hadn’t seen the kind of speed we saw tonight.
After throwing an interception on its first possession, North Fort Myers jumped ahead 14-0 with touchdowns on its next two possessions.
White, who wasn’t in on the game’s opening series, carried three times and scored from five yards out for a 7-0 lead after Mariner fumbled on its own 28.
The Tritons used a 39-yard strike from Rees to senior Joey Lane to reach the North 18. But Rees was stripped on a sneak at the goal line on 2nd down late in the first quarter.
North answered with a quick 80-yard drive, culminating in Herb Riggins’ 42-yard score on a bubble screen, complete with spin moves and broken tackles.
Rees, who replaced Mariner starter Cairo Jeunegens in the middle of Mariner’s 14-6 win at Cypress Lake last week, hit senior Chance Reiter in stride on a deep ball for a 45-yard touchdown on the next series to cut the deficit to 14-7 with 9:04 left in the half.
Jeunegens did not play Friday because of an ankle injury, Smith said.
After an exchange of punts, North flexed its muscles closing the half to lead 27-7 at the break.
Lindsey bounced off a hit in the backfield to score with ease from 21 yards out with 4:14 left in the second quarter. Waiting for Lindsey to receive the handoff, a Mariner defensive end slowed up just enough that Lindsey had the better momentum to withstand the hit.
North then successfully executed an onside kick and scored on two completions from Perez and three runs from Kobylanski, who scored from one yard out with 2:01 left in the half.
“It was just a good game,” said North coach Earnest Graham. “They’ve been winning. They’re a good football team right now.”
Mariner cut the deficit to 27-14 opening the second half thanks largely to Reiter’s 50-yard run. The Tritons went 75 yards in 10 plays and scored on Geovanni Garcia’s 2-yard run on fourth down at the 7:33 mark of the third quarter.
After being stuffed on 4th down runs to end the next two possessions in Mariner territory, North finally put the game away with a touchdown off a short field with 2:33 remaining. The Red Knights took over at the Mariner 25 and scored on two runs from Luis Alfonso to lead 34-14.
“We didn’t finish like we wanted,” Graham said. “We’re fine. We’re getting better.”
North Fort Myers 34, Mariner 21
N 7 | 20 | 0 | 7 — 34
M 0 | 7 | 7 | 7 — 21
N – Zaquandre White 5 run (Ethan Bennett kick), 7:01
N – Herbert Riggins III 42 pass from Nick Perez (Bennett kick), 11:47
M – Chance Reiter 45 pass from Hunter Rees (Andrew Kibler kick), 9:04
N – Terry Lindsey 21 run (kick failed), 4:14
N – Hunter Kobylanski 1 run (Bennett kick), 2:01
M – Geovanni Garcia 2 run (Kibler kick), 7:33
N – Luis Alfonso 2 run (Bennett kick), 2:33
M – Joey Lane 38 pass from Rees (Kibler kick), 1:59
Rushing — N, Hunter Kobylanski 16-111, Zaquandre White 11-51, Fa’najae Gotay 2-30, Terry Lindsey 5-53, Bryce Adkins 2-5, Luis Alfonso 6-26; M, Chance Reiter 17-134, Christian Butz 2-(-3), Joey Lane 1-2, Hunter Rees 6-8, Eric Preston 1-(-3), Jesse Charles 2-9, Geovanni Garcia 2-8
Passing — N, Nick Perez 9-19-1, 172; M, Hunter Rees 9-18-1, 152
Receiving — N, Herbert Riggins 2-59; Jaheed Marcus 2-27, Garrett Morgan 2-31, #13 3-55; M, Lane 6-92, Chance Reiter 1-45, Chris Ramsey 1-4, Elijah Butz 1-11