In the opening weekend of the high school football season, the programs at Cape Coral and Ida Baker have established themselves as viable district contenders from north of the river by displaying both a potent offense and solid defense.
The offensive and defensive line play helped stake Cape Coral to an early lead against East Lee County en route to a 45-14 victory last Friday. They used a balanced attack to keep the Jaguars on their toes and keep the ball moving.
The Jaguars were rarely successful in penetrating the Seahawks defense with their running game. Often, quarterback Winfred Ward was scrambling to get away from the Seahawk rush.
By the third quarter the Seahawks were up 31-0.
The Seahawks substituted freely and only then were the Jaguars able to put together scores on consecutive drives to pull with 31-14. Both scores came of passes by Ward.
Seahawks senior running back Eamon Smart ran for four touchdowns, and quarterback Dylan Bontrager threw for three as the Seahawks amassed 408 yards of total offense. Bontrager threw for 261 of those yards.
"They played hard," Seahawks coach Larry Gary said. "Penalties, we've got to do something to address the issue of penalties."
The Seahawks (1-0) host Estero this Friday.
Cape Coral 12 12 7 14 - 45
East Lee Co. 0 0 14 0 - 14
CC - Smart 10 run (kick failed)
CC - Cole 22 pass from Bontrager (kick blocked)
CC - Smart 4 run (pass failed)
CC - Lewis 8 pass from Bontrager (run failed)
CC - Smart 1 run (Mateo kick)
ELC - Tarin 16 pass from Ward (run failed)
ELC - Dabney 31 pass from Ward (Ward run)
CC - McCoy 26 pass from Bontrager (Perez kick)
CC - Smart 15 run (Perez kick)
Baker 32, Island Coast 14: The game had barely been over for 15 minutes, yet tucked into a darkened coaches' room a few steps from his players were heading for the exits, Island Coast coach Joe Bowen was searching for answers.
"The wheels fell off," he said softly. "It was a snowball effect. Once it started, it just never seemed like the bleeding would ever stop."
The severe wounding occurred in the third quarter, which began with the Gators holding a 14-3 lead they'd built in the first half - and ended 12 clock minutes later with the Bulldogs leading 25-14, thanks to touchdowns on three of the Bulldogs' first four possessions.
Island Coast's first four possessions, meanwhile, ended in punt, fumble, fumble, punt.
Baker quarterback Sage Attwood jumped, jived and wailed his way to five completions in six attempts, including two for touchdowns, in the third quarter alone. He hit senior Roy Denson on a 39-yarder to set up a two-yard plunge by Alex Febles just 2:06 after the break. Following Febles' 20-yard scoring run that provided the game's first lead change at 5:21, he connected with senior Geordan Hoagland on a 27-yarder to push the advantage to 11 and confirm that the team's halftime wake-up call was received.
"Ever since I came here as a freshman, we've always been a second-half team," said Attwood. "We don't really get in our zone until that second half. Once we came out and did our thing, that's how it came out: 32-14."
Attwood connected with yet another receiver, senior Johnny Garrow, completed the scoring two minutes into the fourth quarter. It was the 11th completion of the night for Attwood, who finished 13-of-19 for 185 yards.
"The offense was as nervous as can be (in the first half) and we weren't making the plays that we know we can make," Bulldogs coach Brian Conn said. "If we're going to be district champs we've got to play two halves. That second half, that's the team that you guys really are."
The Gators (0-1) and Bulldogs (1-0) are both on the road this Friday. The Gators visit Riverdale while the Bulldogs make the long journey to Key West.
Ida Baker 0 3 22 7 - 32
Island Coast 14 0 0 0 - 14
IC - Bourque 12 run (Bourque kick)
IC - Russaw 31 run (Bourque kick)
IB - FG, Barahona 29
IB - Febles 2 run (Barahona kick)
IB - Febles 20 run (Barahona kick)
IB - Hoagland 27 pass from Attwood (Febles run)
IB - Garrow 11 pass from Attwood (Barahona kick)
Estero 49, Mariner 8: Things have not gone so well for the Mariner Tritons, who piled up mistakes in a one-sided loss to the Estero Wildcats.
Mariner had six turnovers in the game, at least five leading directly to Estero scores.
Coach Mark Jackson got the win in his Wildcats debut, while James Hale's team lost in his first seasonal test for the Tritons.
"I think we had six turnovers and I think they scored on every one of them," Hale said.
Cody Long threw for six Estero touchdowns. The junior had 271 yards in the air and rushed for 66 more.
Mariner fumbled on its first two possessions, putting Estero in business in Tritons territory. Long's first touchdown pass went to Ryan Keegan to cap a drive aided by two Mariner penalties. The Tritons then fumbled on their next play from scrimmage to set up Long's 14-yard scoring pass.
"I think if you could take away the first-quarter fumbles we could have made a game of it," Hale said. "We made them look better than they are. They capitalized and did a good job."
Jonah Markovits got the Tritons on the board right before halftime. He hit Malcolm Ferdinand on a 20-yard TD pass play. The two then combined for a two-point conversion. Three other times Mariner drove inside the Estero 20 - once to the 1 - only to be turned away.
"We were a little better than we were last week, and maybe next week we'll be a little better than this week," Hale said.
The Tritons (0-1) host Palmetto Ridge this Friday.
Mariner 0 8 0 0 - 8
Estero 15 14 13 7 - 49
Estero - Keegan 5 pass from Long (Wilson kick)
Estero -Pruitt 14 pass from Long (Catona run)
Estero - Brennan 7 pass from Long (conversion failed)
Estero - Pruitt 51 pass from Long 51 (Catona run)
Mariner -Ferdinand 20 pass from Markovits (Ferdinand pass from Markovits)
Estero - Brennan 27 pass from Long 27 (Wilson kick)
Estero - Fisher 85 interception return (kick failed)
Estero - Campbell 65 pass from Long (Wilson kick)
Freelance writers Jonathan Blikstad, Lyle Fitzsimmons and Pete Sisk contributed to this report.