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Fort Myers, Island Coast take big first-half leads and hold on for Thursday night football wins

The News-Press (Fort Myers) logo The News-Press (Fort Myers) 10/23/2020 Alex Martin and Andrew Sodergren, Fort Myers News-Press
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Fort Myers 31, Lehigh 21

Christmas came a little bit early for Fort Myers on Thursday night, as the Green Wave defense and special teams forced four fumbles on Lehigh’s first four possessions en route to a 31-21 win over the Lightning. The Green Wave's number of consecutive wins against Lehigh is up to 19, dating back to 1997.

Several key miscues in the first quarter by Lehigh gave Fort Myers a quick 17-0 lead nine minutes into the game. Durand Bundy and Richard Young were not on the same page early on, as the two were responsible for a pair of fumbles.

“We hit the one-shot play (to Damian Pierre),” Fort Myers coach Sam Sirianni said. “I was worried because we were only up 10-0 when we hit the one-shot play to Damian (Pierre). The first series we’re down inside the five, we pass on the field goal, and we had the walk-in touchdown. I’m proud of (quarterback) Carson (Esposito), but he was trying too hard early on. We shot ourselves in the foot early on, and those games can come back to haunt you.

“Whenever (Tarvarish Dawson) or (Richard Young) touches the ball, you hold your breath.”

Fort Myers’ rushing attack was on its game, as Sirianni called 53 running plays for 265 yards. Zemare Harvin was just under 200 yards on the night, totaling 189 yards on 26 carries and a score. Greg Dennard, who won Homecoming King, scored two times and ended the night with 62 yards on the ground. Carson Esposito only attempted 12 passes on the night, completing three of them for 51 yards, including the 40-yard touchdown strike to Pierre.

a group of football players on a field: Zemare Harvin of Fort Myers runs the ball against Lehigh on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Fort Myers High School. © Amanda Inscore/The News-Press USA TODAY NETWORK - FLORIDA Zemare Harvin of Fort Myers runs the ball against Lehigh on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Fort Myers High School.

“We showed some flashes, and we even got some contributions from some of the other guys,” Sirianni said. “When the game is on the line, I’m going to Zemare. He plays over 100 snaps. If only I kept him fresh. Down the stretch, he had about four or five big runs which gave us key first downs late in the game. Greg Dennard was another one. You imagine what kind of fullback he’d be if he was fresh.

“I’d take Zemare any day. He just has a sixth sense for the game of football.”

Richard Young was held in check early on but eventually broke free for a 60-yard score which cut into the Fort Myers lead. Young finished with 100 yards even on the ground, while Dawson, an Auburn commit, had 144 yards receiving with a pair of touchdowns from Bundy.

Fort Myers (4-2) will go up against Ida Baker (3-2) next Friday, while Lehigh (3-3) will take on a winless East Lee County team that has lost 13 consecutive games dating back to last year.

— Alex Martin

Watch: Island Coast spoils Bonita Springs' homecoming with 24-12 win
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Island Coast 24, Bonita Springs 12

The Gators rode two big plays on offense in the first half along with a solid defensive effort throughout to spoil homecoming night for the Bull Sharks.

After the two teams traded early touchdowns, Island Coast’s Jason Joseph found Jacob Hardin on a trick play for a 55-yard score late in the first quarter to put the Gators ahead 12-6.

It looked like that would be the score headed to halftime, but Island Coast struck again with just 12 seconds to play when senior quarterback Gabe Fisher found receiver Mike Jones all alone over the middle for a 74-yard touchdown.

a young boy holding a kite while standing in the grass: Bonita Springs seniors William Stolard and Mia Shaffery were crowed homecoming king and queen during a halftime ceremony of Thursday night's game between Bonita Springs and Island Coast. © Andrew Sodergren/Staff Bonita Springs seniors William Stolard and Mia Shaffery were crowed homecoming king and queen during a halftime ceremony of Thursday night's game between Bonita Springs and Island Coast.

“We started off the game with two or three big mistakes defensively and it gave them (18 points),” Bonita Springs coach Rich Dombroski lamented. “We weren’t ourselves offensively the entire game. We couldn’t sustain a drive and it was a rough night for our boys up front and usually our offensive line is the steadfast part of our offense. We’re making too many mental mistakes late in the season for us to be successful. But we fought for 48 minutes, and I do take a lot of pride that our kids don't quit.”

Island Coast coach Elgin Hicks liked the way his team started the game but wasn’t too pleased with how the Gators finished. Up 24-6 in the fourth quarter, the Gators gave up a touchdown drive on defense and then failed to recover the onside kick on special teams. After getting a turnover on downs defensively, the Gators couldn’t run the clock out as they made a few costly penalties and then were stuffed on two running plays. Bonita Springs got the ball one last time trailing by 12 with 1:35 to play, but a Gators interception finally sealed the deal.

“I’m not pleased with how the game ended but I get it,” Hicks said. “Our guys have a big game (at North Fort Myers) next week and sometimes it’s hard to stay focused in a week like this with a big one hanging over your head. Big ups to our guys for getting the win but no we’re not pleased with how we ended it and we’ve got to get better.”

Fisher started the scoring for the Gators with a 5-yard touchdown run, a few plays after hitting a wide-open Hardin for a 20-yard gain to keep the drive alive. The Gators (4-2) also got an 8-yard touchdown late in the third by Dylan Ratliff to make it 24-6.

Ethan Saure and Mason Keenum had rushing touchdowns for the Bull Sharks (2-4), who finish the regular season at Oasis on Friday.

— Andrew Sodergren

Follow News-Press and Naples Daily News Sports Writers Alex Martin and Andrew Sodergren on Twitter: @NP_AlexMartin and @AHSodergren. For the best sports coverage in Southwest Florida, follow @newspresssports and @ndnprepzone on Instagram.

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Fort Myers, Island Coast take big first-half leads and hold on for Thursday night football wins

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