THAT’S A WRAP: PREP FOOTBALL SEASON CONCLUDES IN THE KEYS

The Key West Conchs came very close to upsetting Archbishop McCarthy’s perfect season on Nov. 3, but a sluggish start in the second half would prove too much to overcome. Key West struck first, then traded touchdowns with McCarthy in a back-and-forth game. At halftime, Key West was down 14-13 despite the physical mismatch of the teams. 

In quarter three, the Conchs had four failed offensive series, including three turned over on downs and one interception. Refusing to say die and down 34-13, the Conchs began executing, and a comeback seemed possible as they racked up 34 points throughout the remainder of the game. In all, four Conchs crossed the goal line, as Adrian Mira, Clerff Alexandre and Jaden Fox scored one touchdown each and Walson Morin scored twice. 

“We ran out of time,” head coach Johnny Hughes said of the 51-47 loss. 

The Conchs closed their season at 3-7, but as Hughes explained to his team, “if 10 or 11 plays had different outcomes, it’s a 7-3 season.” 

“We were physically outmanned against McCarthy,” he told the Weekly. “We’re going to spend some time in the weight room this offseason and get to where we need to be.” 

Key West had a season beleaguered with turnovers, with 22 in the first four games alone. Later in the season, minor injuries began to pile up, testing the depth of the team. While the Conchs had a dozen seniors on their roster, the younger players had plenty of opportunities to earn time on the field this year. 

“We didn’t have a JV this year. We had nine freshmen on the varsity team instead, and they all ended up playing,” Hughes said. The experience gained by the freshmen as well as “a talented sophomore class and some really strong juniors” should spell success for Key West in the 2024 season. 

The Dolphins traveled to Harris Field in Homestead on Nov. 3 to play their final game of the season. Across the line of scrimmage were the Hurricanes of Somerset South Homestead. On their opening drive, the Fins did what they do best: controlling the clock and holding the ball as long as they could. 

Marathon marched down the field on a 70-yard drive, capped off with an 11-yard Braulio Garcia touchdown run. All systems pointed toward a win with the Fins moving the ball at will and managing decent chunks of yardage for their first possession. 

Two plays later, the score was tied up, and Marathon’s hopes began to ebb. A turnover further set the Fins back, and the Hurricanes scored again just moments into the second quarter. 

Down 14-7, Marathon got back to work on offense, but an interception returned the ball to the Hurricanes, who were given a first-and-goal scenario. The ’Canes quickly scored not once, but twice, with both TDs being called back on penalties. The Fins’ defense held strong, and a series of big defensive plays, including an Eddie Garcia sack, put the Hurricanes on the 50-yard line in a third-and-47 situation. But Somerset managed to dig themselves out of their mess and scored on the next play. Marathon was able to stop the Hurricanes from capitalizing on the extra point, making the score 20-7. 

With 7:40 to go in the half, the Fins were driving again, but a fumble recovered by Somerset gave them a quick extra 6 along with a 2-point conversion. One more turnover in the first half led to a 35-7 deficit that Marathon wasn’t able to undo in the second half of play.

Marathon did some regrouping in the second half, holding Somerset to just a pair of touchdowns, both in quarter three, but a running clock and deep deficit would prevent a victory. The Dolphins did manage another touchdown in the fourth quarter, this time a 4-yard run from Tanner Ross, who willed himself into the end zone. At the final buzzer, the score was 48-14, giving the Fins a 2-8 record for the season. The Dolphins will return to action next season hungry for more wins and ready to put in the work with a nearly intact roster – the team has just two seniors this year.

Coral Shores was slated to play Ransom Everglades for the third-place trophy in the FIFC conference consolation game. The game was scheduled for Nov. 2 and coach Ed Holly and his team worked all week in preparation for a rematch against Raiders. On Monday, they learned that Ransom would not play the game, citing their team’s health after being banged up the previous week. 

Despite having a deep varsity and full JV roster, the Raiders were unwilling to consider the scheduled matchup, leaving Holly to either end his season early or scramble for another opponent. 

“It’s not just a game,” he said. “Our kids have only 10 chances to play all year. Not playing a game takes away 10% of their year and we didn’t want to do that to them, especially our seniors.”  

Holly was able to find a worthy opponent who was not only willing to play, but was close and within the conference. The Hurricanes quickly changed their gameplan, preparing for Palm Glades Prep in a walk-through practice on Tuesday afternoon, then playing them on Wednesday evening at Harris Park in Homestead. 

In their last matchup on Sept. 8, the ’Canes bested Palm Glades 20-12. This time, the score would be 50-12, a testament to the Hurricanes’ hard work the past two months. Holly summed up his team’s season in one word: “Improvement.” 

“My litmus test is, are we playing the best ball at the end of the year? The answer to that this season is yes,” he said. On Wednesday night, the ’Canes certainly looked to be playing well. 

The scoring started on their first drive with an Isaac Holmes 16-yard pass to Austin Vogt. It would be the first of three passing TDs from Holmes, including a 38-yard bomb to AJ Putetti and one more for 16 yards to Kristers Vutnans. Putetti also scored on an interception which he carried 50 yards for the score. Holmes, who had close to 300 all-purpose yards on the night, also ran one in for a 33-yard touchdown, capping off the senior’s career in style. 

Kicker Ethan Margut put 3 on the board with a 31-yard field goal, and Dantay Diorio added a touchdown on the ground. He was also credited with a forced fumble, which was recovered by Micah Carr. RJ Dube had a 1-yard TD run to complete the scoring onslaught for the ’Canes.

Coral Shores finished its season 6-4, picking up steam as the season went on. The Hurricanes earned third-place honors in their conference with the forfeit by Ransom, making their lopsided win over Palm Glades an added bonus to an already stat-studded season.

Tracy McDonald
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.