Shamar Wright (13) sheds a Griffin defender. Photos by BARRY GAUKEL/Keys Weekly.

Marathon football always draws a good crowd, and last week’s homecoming celebration packed the bleachers even more. The Fins’ original opponent bowed out weeks into the season, forcing them to scramble for a team to play on short notice. Gateway Prep out of Fort Myers stepped up and traveled all the way to Marathon to give the Dolphins a homecoming game to remember. Although the Fins came up short in the final moments of the game, the hard-fought contest was a good matchup and gave fans a reason to stay in their seats until the final whistle.

Marathon struck first in the opening drive of the game off a Braulio Garcia power run. Fabbianho Louis Jeune added the extra point for the Fins, giving the home team hope for a homecoming win. The Griffins then seemingly recovered from their long trip, scoring on back-to-back drives while holding the Dolphins on defense. But without a kicker, Gateway was not able to convert on their extra point attempts, making the score 12-7. 

The Griffins were driving again when Yemcel Garcia enlivened the Dolphins with an interception, turning the ball over to Marathon with just over 30 seconds left in the half. Marathon could not capitalize on the opportunity and the score stood at halftime. 

After halftime, the Griffins picked up some momentum, scoring a pair of quick touchdowns to pull ahead 24-7. Marathon found their groove and answered back with another Braulio Garcia touchdown run after a long Josh Wall run to close the gap. With the score at 24-14, Marathon’s defense dug deep to close out the Griffins in the second half. 

A Carlos Lezcano 8-yard run put the Fins within reach of a win, and they went on the march, but a grounded snap and a fumble in the final moments of the game ended the hopes for Marathon to come from behind. As the buzzer sounded, the score was 24-21 with the Griffins picking up a road win. 

“We are a young team and we have to learn how to win,” said Marathon coach Sean McDonald. “Friday night was an important lesson on how to get there. We need to play with the same intensity as we did in the second half for four entire quarters in order to win games. The team fought hard, but we just ran out of time.”

Up next for the Fins is a star-studded Palmer Trinity at home on Oct. 26 before a trip to Somerset South Homestead the following week to cap off their season.

Coral Shores evened up its record with a resounding victory against Tradition Prep out of Port St. Lucie on Oct. 19. The ’Canes made the three-hour trip to play the Pirates on their homecoming and senior night celebration. 

“We executed well in a festive atmosphere,” Coral Shores coach Ed Holly said. “It was a much closer game than the score dictated.” That score, 51-19 in favor of the Hurricanes, spoiled the fun for Tradition Prep and gave Coral Shores its fourth victory of the season.

The Pirates got on the scoreboard on their first drive, but Dantay Diorio had a quick answer, scoring on a 62-yard touchdown run to bring the score to 14-7 in the Hurricanes’ favor.

Seen here in a preseason game, Dantay Diorio racked up multiple touchdowns and a 2-point conversion in the Hurricanes’ blowout of Tradition Prep. DOUG FINGER/Keys Weekly

RJ Dube blocked a punt on an ensuing Tradition Prep drive, giving the ’Canes the momentum they needed. AJ Putetti took advantage of the great field position and scored a 9-yard TD, and a missed extra point made the score 20-7 at the beginning of quarter two. A Jamoris Davis fumble recovery and strong play on both sides capped off the first half of the game. 

After halftime, Dantay Diorio carried the ball in for a 43-yard touchdown run. Though the ’Canes were up by nearly 20 points, they went for two instead of kicking an extra point, something unusual for Holly under such conditions. 

As it turns out, there was a perfectly valid explanation. “At their field, when an extra point was good, the ball landed in a swamp with alligators,” Holly said. “I only had three balls to lose, so we had to go for two.” 

Putetti added another nine-yard run and Diorio carried it in for another two-point conversion at the end of the third quarter, giving the Hurricanes a 36-7 lead.

Quarter four included a long touchdown pass from the Pirates, and bolstered by their energetic crowd, Tradition Prep was driving again. Isaac Holmes put an end to that, intercepting the ball before adding a 30-yard touchdown run of his own. Holmes had a second 18-yard TD late in the game, and the Pirates added 6 on their final possession, making the final score 51-19. 

Holmes has been filling in for starting quarterback Yemcel Moreno, who is out with a knee injury. Moreno’s return this season is uncertain, but Holly is hopeful and praised him for his positive attitude and leadership from the sidelines. He also had praise for Xico Reynoso, who held the line on both sides of the ball, and for Davis and Eddie Holly on defense. The younger Holly had 15 tackles on the night.

The Hurricanes play Somerset South Homestead on Oct. 27 at home, a team whose running back Holly described as “dynamic” and “legitimate.” Their final game will be a conference playoff contest against the winner of the Archbishop Carroll/Ransom Everglades game the following Thursday night at Harris Park in Homestead.

Key West worked on some fine-tuning and recovery from nagging injuries in its bye week. The Conchs will enjoy homecoming on Oct. 27 against Gateway High School out of Fort Myers – a different opponent than Marathon’s homecoming foe, though with a similar name. The Conchs’ final regular season game will be the following week in Fort Lauderdale against undefeated Archbishop McCarthy.

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.