Two evenly matched teams with similar offense styles clashed at Cypress Lake's Thomas Broomhead Memorial Stadium Friday night. In the end, Mariner's defense held on to defeat the Panthers 28-21.
Both teams rely heavily on the run, and used that game plan for much of the night. Mariner failed in its first possession to convert on fourth down, and gave the ball to the Panthers at their own 40. It took Cypress Lake only five plays to hit paydirt.
Jayron Kearse did not start at quarterback because of a broken finger, but that didn't keep him from catching an 11-yard TD pass from Jabaris Nixon.
The Tritons took just six plays to tie the score. Tyler Pigott was in on two scores during the evening. The first one he ran in from the 19-yard line. He broke several tackles along the way and reversed his field before finding the end zone.
"My blockers provided a cutback lane, I saw the end zone, and I wasn't going to be denied," Pigott said.
The Tritons scored again to take the lead, but Cypress drove for the tying touchdown, 14-14, with only 19 seconds left in the first half.
Offensively, the Tritons had 118 total yards in the half, all on the ground, while the Panthers gained 109. The Tritons completed no passes in the first half.
The only two completions came in the second half and were on halfback option tosses by someone other than the quarterback.
In the second half the Panthers abandoned their punting game, going for it on fourth down four times. Each time they were stopped by the Tritons.
Twice the Tritons took advantage of the great field position to score and opened a 14-point lead.
On both touchdowns, Tritons coach Chris Siner called for the halfback option pass to a wide receiver in the end zone. Pigott tossed one TD pass and Jaylen Mitchell the other.
"All year long we've been having trouble in the red zone," said Siner, "so we pulled out all the stops to get the ball in the endzone."
Cypress Lake wasn't going to go away without a fight. Late in the game, Kearse became the go-to guy.
On their next drive he was involved in two long passes. He threw one for a 23-yard gain, and caught a second for 31 yards. The latter put the ball at the Mariner 1.
Two plays later, Sean Anderson scored his second touchdown of the night to pull the Panthers within one score.
Then came an onside kick. Everyone knew it was coming, but Kearse somehow recovered it. The Panthers started at the Tritons 41.
The Panthers failed to get a first down. On fourth down the ball was handed to Kearse, who was smothered by Tritons defenders.
In the end, that was the difference.
"Kearse is a quality back, and when we tackle a quality back like we're supposed to, that's when we win," said Siner. "Praise goes to our defense, and to our defensive coordinators Andrew London and James Iandoli. They drew up a great scheme."
Mariner (3-6, 1-4 district) concludes the season next Friday by visiting Ida Baker.
Mariner 7 7 7 7 - 28
Cypress Lake 7 7 0 7 - 21
CL - Jayron Kearse 11 pass from Jabaris Nixon (Dylan Findley kick)
M - Tyler Pigott 19 run (Justin Kuchle kick)
M - Donovan McAmis 3 run (Kuchle kick)
CL - Sean Anderson 6 run (Findley kick)
M - Stephen King 8 pass from Jaylen Mitchell (Kuchle kick)
M - Kyle Fontaine 5 pass from Pigott (Kuchle kick)
CL - Anderson 1 run (Findley kick)