Estero’s margin for error closed in a matter of 12 seconds on senior night at Jeff Sommer Stadium.
When Lehigh sophomore quarterback Delshawn Green raced down the field 50 yards for a touchdown to start the third quarter, it all but ended the Wildcats’ hopes for another playoff bid in District 6A-11.
This time, Lehigh (5-3, 2-1) won the game it needed to win and closed the door on the runner-up playoff spot in the district by beating Estero 21-8 on Friday.
“He’s a young kid that has a whole wealth of talent,” Lehigh coach James Chaney said of Green. “I want him to take over this team. I want him to be that prototypical quarterback and leader. He’s getting there.”
With one more win, the Lightning can secure their best season since 2011, which was also the last year they reached the postseason. A year ago, Lehigh had a chance to qualify but lost this game 21-7.
“This win is everything,” said Green, whose team moves on to face Riverdale next week in the Battle of the Bell. “We wanted to win it not just for us but the Lehigh family. We haven’t been in the playoffs for seven years. This win pumped us up.”
And yet, it was a somber tone in some ways, too, considering Lehigh was without junior running back Chris Curry for three quarters after he went down with an ankle injury on his first play from scrimmage in the first quarter. An emotional Curry watched the game from the bench, but said at halftime he was likely to be back by next week’s game.
Green made up for his absence, scoring twice on the night, including the game’s first touchdown with 10:49 left in the second quarter on a 9-play, 47-yard series. He added four completions on 10 attempts for 35 yards in the air, connecting with receiver Russell Brown three times for 33 yards.
Estero (1-8, 0-2) lost four of five fumbles on the game, including a critical error following Lehigh’s touchdown in the second quarter. The Lightning scooped up the ball on the ensuing kickoff at the 8 and scored two plays later on a 6-yard run by Jalane Nelson.
“Our defense really answered the call today,” Chaney said. “They played lights out. Turnovers. Stopping the run. The defensive backs did a great job against the pass.”
Nelson carried the load for Lehigh, though he only rushed for 39 yards overall, part of 97 yards on the ground in the game. Lehigh only had 143 yards of total offense.
But Estero had too many miscues, not to mention it was breaking in freshman quarterback Tanner Elliott after their starter, Phil Setterquist, went down with a concussion last week.
“He won the position this week in practice,” Estero coach Jeff Hanlon said. “I’m proud of the way he competed today.”
The freshman was nervy throughout, going 6 of 22 for 57 yards and a touchdown. His bright spot came in the third quarter on a touchdown throw to Justin Lopez on a wheel route.
But the rookie forced several throws and could have had at least four interceptions had Lehigh held on to the ball.
Estero produced its first first down with 6:46 left in the second quarter. They finished the game with 61 yards on 39 carries.
Defensively, the Wildcats produced a safety on Lehigh with five seconds left in the third quarter on a fourth down in the end zone. The Lightning experienced trouble with their long snapping all night, and turned the ball over twice on fourth down.
Correction: A previous version of this story said Lehigh’s last trip to the postseason was 2009.
LEHIGH 21, ESTERO 8
L 0 14 7 0 —21
E 0 0 8 0 —8
L — Delshawn Green 1 yard (Marlon Morales kick), 10:49
L — Jalane Nelson 6 run (Morales kick), 8:19
E—Justin Lopez 17 pass from Tanner Elliott (kick failed), 5:42
E — Safety, blocked punt
Rushing — L, Jalane Nelson 22-39, Jartavius Martin 1-minus-14, Delshawn Green 4-61, Chris Curry 1-0, D’Marquise Collins; Est, Max Bosi 1-10, Christian Warson 1-2, Viktor Shelly 3-14, Jon Rauss 4-21, Justin Lopez 10-33, Willie Neal 3-3, Tanner Elliott 9-minus-31, Mason Crowell 8-23.
Passing — L, Green 4-10-0-35, Collins 2-4-0-11, Jartavius Martin 0-1-0-0; Est, Elliott 6-22-1-57, Philip Setterquist 0-1-0-0.
Receiving — L, Russell Brown 4-40, Christian Guerra 1-4, Collins 1-2; Est, Neal 3-33, Viktor Shelly 2-7, Lopez 1-17.