Three punt blocks, one returned for a touchdown, quality defense and the potentially promising future of a 14-year-old freshman quarterback highlighted Estero’s 20-12 win at Cypress Lake.
Jonathan Rauss returned fellow senior Kyle Flynn’s third punt block for a touchdown for the game’s final points early in the fourth quarter as Estero (2-8) rallied from a 12-6 halftime deficit.
“It feels great,” Rauss said. “No matter how our season went, going out with a win in our last game ever makes everything.”
Six-foot-2 freshman Tanner Elliot, who made his varsity debut a week earlier, was only 6-of-15 passing for 67 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. But he also stood tall in the pocket and threw with accuracy, leaving Estero hopeful for his future.
“It’s great momentum for our offseason,” said Estero coach Jeff Hanlon. “(Elliot) is definitely somebody we can build a program around. He’s very coachable, has a great arm. Obviously we’ve got to put some size on him. But he has exactly what you want as a quarterback.”
Cypress (3-7), which scored on long touchdowns by sophomores Kelsey Demps and Chris Joseph, finished with a 277-106 advantage in total yards. But the Panthers also had at least nine plays for negative yards, including seven in the second half as Estero seized momentum.
“It’s been a motto for most of the year, self-inflicted wounds,” said Panthers coach Richie Rode. “But we’re such a young ball club, and we’ve had such unbelievable injuries.
“I think we’ve come a long way this year. Our record is not fully indicative of it, although it’s better than it’s been. It’s not up to our standards where we want to be and where I plan on being very soon.”
Cypress scored on its first possession on just two plays, a 20-yard run by Demps and a 57-yard score on a screen pass to Joseph.
A Cypress muffed punt and Flynn’s first punt block set up Estero’s first score late in the second quarter. Elliot hit junior Keevon Clark on a 25-yard seam route in the back of the end zone on 4th and 7 to tie the score 6-6 with 35 seconds remaining in the half.
Starting at its 6, Cypress countered with Demps’ 92-yard scoring run on 3rd and 8 to go ahead 12-6.
But Estero finally capitalized again late in the third quarter on quality defense and Cypress miscues, converting a Demps fumble inside the Cypress 5 into Max Bosi’s 4-yard run for a 13-12 lead.
Flynn’s third punt block on the next possession helped Estero to the 20-12 advantage opening the fourth quarter, during which Cypress was twice stopped on fourth down before time expired.
Estero 20, Cypress 12
E 0 | 6 | 7 | 7 — 20
CL 6 | 6 | 0 | 0 — 12
CL – Chris Joseph 57 pass from Kelsey Demps (pass failed), 8:39
E – Keevon Clark 25 pass from Tanner Elliot (kick failed), 0:35
CL – Demps 92 run (run failed), 0:02
E – Max Bosi 4 run (Michael Mendes kick), 1:28
E – Jonathan Rauss 5 blocked punt return (Mendes kick), 11:48
Rushing — E, Tanner Elliot 11-(-4), Mason Crowell 5-(-3), Jonathan Rauss 3-12, Willie Neal 1-2, Justin Lopez 3-4, Max Bosi 13-33, Victor Shelly 2-(-5); CL, Kelsey Demps 19-170, Isaiah Thomas 4-0, Ben Riley 2-1, Chris Joseph 5-17
Passing — E, Elliot 6-15-2, 67, ; CL, Demps 6-16-1, 89
Receiving — E, Shelly 2-11, Lopez 2-23, Colin Simoneau 1-8, Keevon Clark 1-25; CL, Chris Joseph 3-59, Thomas 1-6, Jerry Ridley 2-24