Running back Charles Jacobsen bounces the ball to the outside during Coral Shores’ annual Green and Gold scrimmage on Aug. 12. DOUG FINGER/Keys Weekly

By Tracy McDonald

All three Monroe County high schools have been putting in the work this month in anticipation of the fall football season. Preseason competition begins on Thursday, Aug. 18, with the regular season set to kick off the following week. Marathon and Coral Shores have opted to play as independent schools, enabling them to match up with schools of similar size and talent without traveling halfway up the state. The teams will face one another in October at Coral Shores. Key West has been reclassified as a 2S school, which denotes a suburban division, creating a challenge in scheduling. Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach schools are classified as metro schools, making any team within a five-hour drive of the Conchs’ home a non-district game.  Despite changes in divisions, coaches and playstyle, one thing remains rock solid here in the Keys: We love our football teams!


Benndy Ambroise is a force to be reckoned with on the Key West Conchs’ defensive line. ELLA HALL/[email protected]

With more than 50 players on their roster, Key West has the advantage of numbers this season, but the big question is whether the underclassmen will develop quickly enough to hold their own with some of the toughest opponents in South Florida.  

Participating in the FHSAA 2S (suburban) division, Key West plays teams from as far away as Ocala, but you won’t need to book any flights to watch the crimson and gray. The Conchs will host nine home games in their second season playing in “The Backyard,” so there will be plenty of opportunity to see them at work. 

Carrying a heavy load will be Andre Otto, the 6’5” offensive lineman who has already racked up more than 20 college offers. Head coach John Hughes rated his “big, physical OL” as one of the team’s greatest assets this season. In addition to Otto, Auggie Berlanga returns to the O-line along with junior Ralph Richie, another expected playmaker.

With a wall of Conchs to protect him, junior quarterback Adrian Mira should have a chance to keep Key West on the scoreboard against teams like Cardinal Gibbons, a team ranked not only in Florida but also nationally. Also returning to the Conchs’ offensive unit are running backs James Reynolds and Clerf Alexandre.  

Key West’s defense should be downright stingy this season as it returns several standout players, including linebacker Jacob LaValle, defensive back Kevon Mills and defensive end Jaydon Edwards. Benndy Ambroise, listed as 6’5” and over 400 pounds, will see time on the defensive line as will defensive end Brondson Etienne and linebacker Jaden Fox.  

The Conchs look to improve on their 5-5 record last season, with Hughes’ sights set on a district championship. After that, Hughes said, the team will be focused on a “return to the playoffs and making a deep run.”


Senior running back Malachi Hawkins looks to duplicate or improve on his dominant 2021 performance. TRACY MCDONALD/Keys Weekly

The Middle Keys will see more blue and white uniforms along the sidelines this fall. A high-scoring spring game brought excitement and promise to the team, and it shows on the Fins’ 2022 roster. With roughly 30 players, the team will be one of Marathon’s largest in recent memory. 

Although Marathon’s total enrollment is about the same as Coral Shores’, the Fins’ student body is spread across seven grade levels at Marathon Middle/High School, making Marathon’s high school enrollment only about half that of Coral Shores. Despite the size difference, both teams look forward to their yearly matchup.

One key element at the top of every team’s wish list is experience, and this season Marathon has it in multiple players with over 20 starts under their belts. The Fins have five solid senior offensive backs to man their single-wing offense. Malachi Hawkins, Thomas Eubank, Aaron Dolton, Sean Hale and Dylan Globe will carry the load this fall, with each player bringing a different nuance to the game. Fellow senior Brody Vandervoort has multiple years of varsity experience on both the offensive and defensive lines, but the Fins’ depth chart doesn’t stop with the senior athletes. 

Junior Alexandre Cruz will help Vandervoort lead a young but experienced group of linemen, and sophomore Carlos Lezcano III will see time at running back and cornerback. Though young, Lezcano is not new to the varsity roster, nor is the Lezcano name new to the back of a Marathon jersey. His father, Carlos Lezcano Jr., is in the Fins’ record books as a standout linebacker.

The small size of the school makes it natural for the team to be close-knit and lends itself to a family atmosphere, something head coach Mac Childress emphasizes. It also creates a necessity for players to play on both sides of the ball. Every one of the players Childress listed has a key role on defense as well as offense, with some also crucial to special teams units.   

Childress is excited to be working with this particular group of players, and has set the bar high for them. “Our main team goal is to finish with a winning record and beat our rival, Coral Shores,” he said. “If we can accomplish those two goals, it would be a tremendous season.”

Childress thanked the MHS administration, Luis Gonzalez and the Mid Keys Boosters as he looked ahead to a phenomenal season under the lights in Dolphin Country. “The Marathon community makes every home game a special place to play,” he said. “They bring the noise and we love it!”  


Coral Shores Charles Jacobsen runs the ball upfield during the Green and Gold scrimmage. DOUG FINGER/Keys Weekly

Coach Ed Holly is seeing the numbers this season with 40 players on his roster. He described his crew as “a young team with a lot of potential.” His players aren’t all new to the varsity ranks, however. Key returning players at both offense and defense will set the tone for the Hurricanes this year.

Defensive tackle Xayver Arrington and linebacker Elijah Palmiscano will help shore up the defense this season while younger athletes will work to fill in the gaps left by graduating seniors.  

New to the Hurricanes but not to varsity football after donning a Westminster Christian jersey last year, Holly’s son John will play offensive tackle, keeping running back Charles Jacobsen safe while wide receivers Derek Smith and Victor Franchini work outside the tackle box.

Some underclassmen vying for starting positions include AJ Putetti at running back, Eddie Holly and Elias De La Torre at linebacker, wide receiver Dantay Diorio and quarterback Yemcel Moreno.

Coach Holly has set goals for his team this season both on and off the field. He hopes to pull off a winning record, improving on last year’s 5-6 mark. Palmer Trinity and Marathon sit atop Holly’s list of rivals to add to his win column this year. Ever the educator, Holly is also working with his staff and team on achieving a 100% graduation rate for his student athletes. He praised Coral Shores principal Laura Lietaert for her support of the ‘Canes’ athletic and academic endeavors. 

Monroe County Varsity Football 2022

Coral Shores Hurricanes

DateOpponentLocationStart Time
8/19Preseason Coral ParkHome7 p.m.
8/26VarelaHome7 p.m.
9/2Palmer TrinityHome7 p.m.
9/9Palm GladesHome7 p.m.
9/16Miami SunsetAway3:30 p.m.
9/23Everglades PrepHome7 p.m.
9/30Ransom EvergladesHome7 p.m.
10/7MarathonHome7 p.m.
10/14Bridge Prep AcademyHome7 p.m.
10/28Conference PlayoffsTBDTBD
11/14Conference ChampionshipTBDTBD

Key West Conchs

DateOpponentLocationStart Time
8/19Cypress CreekHome7 p.m.
8/26Palmetto RidgeHome7 p.m.
9/2Boca RatonHome7 p.m.
9/16Dade ChristianHome7 p.m.
9/23Cardinal GibbonsHome7 p.m.
9/30Bishop VerotHome7 p.m.
10/14EsteroHome7 p.m.
10/21HardeeHome7 p.m.
10/28Fort Myers GatewayTBD7 p.m.
11/4Trinity CatholicTBD7 p.m.

Marathon Dolphins

DateOpponentLocationStart Time
8/19Preseason St. BrendanAway7 p.m.
8/26Pompano BeachHome7 p.m.
9/1Miami Country DayAway7 p.m.
9/8University SchoolAway6 p.m.
9/16Bye WeekN/AN/A
9/23Ransom EvergladesHome7 p.m.
9/30Bridge Prep AcademyAway4 p.m.
10/7Coral ShoresAway7 p.m.
10/14Miami Country DayHome7 p.m.
10/21Palm GladesHome7 p.m.
10/28University schoolHome7 p.m.