“We needed it.” 

That is what Key West coach Johnny Hughes said of his team’s victory over Oxbridge Academy on Sept. 8 when the Conchs rolled the Thunder Wolves 44-15.  

With starting running back Jaden Fox out with a shoulder injury suffered a week prior, the Conchs found some depth in Leandro Batista. The sophomore, who played basketball for Key West but is new to football, was convinced to give it a try, and Hughes believes Batista may be on the road to becoming a dual athlete after running for three touchdowns against Oxbridge. 

Hughes had high praise for quarterback Adrian Mira as well, saying that the Conchs play caller did a great job taking his time and making his reads. Mira scored one rushing touchdown and connected with Cole Jackson on a 35-yard touchdown pass. RJ Brown’s rushing touchdown accounted for the final regular score of the evening. The Conchs also caught Oxbridge by surprise and added two points on a safety, and kicker Marco Davila was 6-for-6 on extra points. Defensively, Key West played a solid game, giving up one of just two touchdowns while the younger players were earning some experience. 

The Conchs will face University School (Orange City) on Sept. 15 at home. Hughes called the 3-0 Titans, “an explosive team with a lot of weapons.” In order to even out Key West’s 1-2 record, he said the Conchs have “got to stop giving them chances,” referencing the team’s two turnovers against Oxbridge. “We can’t afford to keep turning over the ball.” For now, though, Key West can enjoy the high-scoring win and use the energy to carry over into the next contest.

Coral Shores coach Ed Holly told his players to “trust the process” from day one. The team listened, and Holly’s words rang true after a 20-12 victory on Sept. 8 at home. The Hurricanes and the Eagles of Palm Glades Prep traded touchdowns in what Holly called “a slugfest,” with Coral Shores striking first. Dantay Diorio capitalized on a long march down the field on the opening drive of the game with a 42-yard touchdown run. The Eagles answered, then AJ Putetti punched in a two-yard TD run to put the ’Canes up 13-6 at the half. Palm Glades added another 6 in half number two, but Isaac Holmes put the game away in the final moments with a short TD run for the win. 

“It was an evenly-matched, competitive game,” Holly said. “Our guys didn’t quit and it paid off.”

Quarterback Yemcel Moreno played well on offense, racking up yardage – including a 42-yard run of his own – and Putetti was good for 125 yards on the ground. Defensively, Eddie Holly created chaos with 10 solo tackles, while RJ Dube added nine. “I don’t think Jamoris Davis ever left the field,” Holly said, praising the junior for his work “all over the field” on offense, defense and special teams. 

Holly said the team’s spirits were high coming off the win, putting them in good position for the contest this coming Friday night. Coral Shores will play its homecoming game early this season to avoid scheduling conflicts with a community event, and the ’Canes will look for win number two against SmartEn Sports Academy out of Miami on Sept. 15.

Marathon traveled to Fort Lauderdale on Sept. 7 to play the Sharks of NSU University High School. The Sharks are undefeated this season, with their smallest margin of victory set at 34 points. That 34-point spread was against the Dolphins, and though the Fins gave the Sharks their best game of the season, it did not end the way they would have hoped.

Things were looking good for Marathon as they marched down the field on their opening drive and scored 6 on a Carlos Lezcano 8-yard touchdown run. Fab Louis Jeune tacked on one more with the PAT to make it 7-0 in favor of the Fins. 

It went downhill from there, though, as Marathon did not see the end zone again during the 41-7 loss. Marathon suffered the worst sort of blow when two-way-starter and last week’s Keys Weekly Athlete of the Week Nolan O’Hara went down with a broken ankle while blocking on a kick return. O’Hara will need surgery on the ankle and will not return for action this season. 

“Losing Nolan is far worse than losing a hundred games,” Marathon coach Sean McDonald said. “He is such a positive, hard-working player, and for him to be hurt so badly is just the worst.” 

Marathon will return home this week to play the Knights of Miami Sunset. In preparation, the team will be going back to the basics. “This week we are going to focus on the fundamentals of tackling and blocking,” McDonald said. “We need to stay positive, and that is difficult when you are in our situation.” 

Marathon’s team is small and young, but unified in the goal of steady progress. “We are just going to work hard every day to be better than yesterday. It is really about our team improving,” said McDonald. “We can’t gauge ourselves on the other team – we can only gauge ourselves on our play versus the play we had the day before.”

Tracy McDonald fled to the Keys from the frozen mountains of Pennsylvania hours after graduating from college and never looked back. She is a second generation coach and educator, and has taught in the public school system for over 25 years. She and her husband met at a beginning teacher meeting in 1997 and have three children born and raised in Monroe County. In her free time, McDonald loves flea markets, historical fiction and long runs in the heat.