Two touchdowns by Marathon High School’s defense separated the victorious Dolphins from football rival Coral Shores High in Friday’s 43-28 Florida Keys showdown.
“Our theme was Marathon Strong and the boys came out and played strong,” Marathon head coach Paul Davis said as the Dolphins celebrated the win on the Hurricanes’ home field in Tavernier. “They definitely put on a strong performance tonight.”
The two Keys teams returned to the field for the first time in nearly a month due to the approach and aftermath of Hurricane Irma Sept. 9 into 10.
“My hat goes off to Marathon. They played an outstanding game offensively, defensively and on special teams,” Cane head coach Alphonso Bryant said.
“I felt we never showed up to play this afternoon,” he said. “They beat us where it really counted — at the line of scrimmage. We didn't play well as a team.”
Marathon quarterback Jackson McDonald passed for touchdowns of 78 and 34 yards in his 11-of-22 game for 252 yards. The 6-foot-4 junior ran for two more TDs, threw a conversion pass and ran for another.
Esteban Sainz of the Dolphins intercepted a Coral Shores pass on the Canes’ first play from scrimmage, and caught a pass that he turned into a 78-yard reception late in the third quarter that set the final score.
The two squads jammed 10 touchdowns and 71 total points into the first three quarters before slowing down in the scoreless fourth period.
Dolphin defensive end Peder Bidonne turned in a monster game and scored the first touchdown, recovering a Cane fumble after a first down from the Coral Shores 2-yard line.
The Hurricanes wasted no time in answering. Kickoff-return man Dylan Scheu scooped up Marathon’s onside kick try and sprinted 48 yards for a touchdown.
A wild second quarter saw the sides score five touchdowns.
Coral Shores marched 69 yards on a 10-play drive, led by long runs from senior Blye Hofstetter (67 yards in the game) and freshman Ralph Williams (66 yards). Aiden Hawkins barged in from the 2-yard line with 7:59 before halftime.
It took the Dolphins two minutes to narrow the gap, Thad Goodwin grabbing a 9-yard touchdown toss from McDonald at the end of a 59-yard drive. Coral Shores blocked the point-after kick, making it 14-13.
A 39-yard run by Williams and a 12-yard burst from Tanaris Walker put the Canes at the Marathon 13, where quarterback Elijah Woods threw to the left side of the end zone where tight end Jay Kubida made a leaping grab for a touchdown.
Marathon wideout Jamal Qualls and McDonald then linked up on a 50-yard reception to the Coral Shores 18. Five plays later, McDonald ran in from the 6-yard line. A pass for the conversion failed, leaving the Canes up, 21-19, with 1:02 in the half.
The Dolphins took only 14 game-clock seconds to score again, senior defensive back Dequian Youngblood picking off a Woods pass into the flats and going 45 yards for the touchdown. Goodwin caught a conversion pass to give Marathon a 27-21 lead.
Early in the third quarter, the game was interrupted by a brief on-field fracas following a punt. Players from both teams were sidelined.
Marathon’s Bidonne sacked Woods for a 13-yard loss, then recovered a bobbled snap two plays later to set the Dolphin offense up at the Cane 13. After a 6-yard run by Dolphin Roberto Garces, the drive ended in a one-yard plunge by McDonald. Marathon was pulling away, 35-21.
Coral Shores then moved 56 yards on a 10-play drive, the offensive line clearing space for long runs by Hawkins and Hofstetter, who scored from the 2. Dillon Walters’ fourth point-after kick made it 35-28 with 33 seconds in the third.
McDonald fired back, needing just one throw to Sainz for the 78-yard capper, 11 seconds remaining in the third.
In the fourth, the pace of the game seemed to catch up with the island squads as both traded possessions without a score on the way to the final gun.
Cane coach Bryant said the layoff seemed to weigh heavily on the Cane defense that “that never got on track.”
“Our guys will remember this taste. Right now, it’s not good one,” he said.
The game was moved from Marathon to Coral Shores when the Dolphins’ home field suffered extensive damage and moved to an afternoon start because of trouble with the lights at George M. Barley Jr. Stadium.
Coral Shores (1-1) travels to Ransom Everglades for a 3:30 p.m. Friday game. Marathon (2-1) also travels to Miami to play Ferguson High at 4 p.m. Friday in a non-conference game.
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206