Lemon Bay High’s defense stopped a two-point conversion attempt by Berkeley Prep with 2:58 to go and the Manta Rays hung on for a 14-13 victory in a spring football game Thursday night at Veterans Stadium.
The Buccaneers had driven 65 yards against the second team Manta Ray defense and pulled within one point on a TD pass from Gavin Rupp to RJ Garcia on third-and-31 from the Lemon Bay 36-yard line. The Bucs elected to go for the win and Lemon Bay put its first team defense back on the field.
“I thought our D-line got good penetration all night,” Lemon Bay coach Don Southwell said. “It was very rare that Rupp dropped back and was comfortable. We had him moving and that was the key.”
With the big rush up the middle, Rupp had to hurry his pass and the ball fell incomplete in the end zone. The Mantas then got the ball and ran out the clock to secure the victory.
The only score of the first half came on Lemon Bay’s first possession. Helped along by three Berkeley Prep penalties, the Mantas moved to the 19 yard line where quarterback Trevor Hedges hit Devante Roberson in the back corner of the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 6:47 to go in the first quarter.
That’s how it stayed for the rest of the half. With 19 seconds to go in the second quarter, Lemon Bay’s Aidan Moore intercepted a Rupp pass and returned it to the Bucs 18. But Hedges was picked off in the end zone two plays later.
Lemon Bay made it 14-0 midway through the third quarter with another sustained drive. With Berkeley Prep defending the Mantas' jet sweep, Lemon Bay turned to the inside running of Keegan Marinola, who picked up 45 yards rushing on the march. Hedges called his own number from the 9-yard line and bulled his way into the end zone to give Lemon Bay a two touchdown lead.
But the Bucs answered with their first score, a 37-yard toss from Rupp to Garcia that cut the margin to 14-7 with 2:10 remaining in the third quarter.
Taking over on their own 35 midway through the fourth quarter, Berkeley Prep moved 65 yards against the Lemon Bay defense, overcoming a 28 yard penalty for a block in the back to pull within 14-13 before opting to go for the lead with a two-point try.
“I thought our defense flew around,” Southwell said. “They were communicating well. We had a lot of new faces in there, but they did their jobs. For three quarters they hung with a pretty talented team and flew around. And that is the recipe for winning at Lemon Bay.”
Transfer quarterback Hedges was 6 for 13 passing for 44 yards in his Lemon Bay debut and also ran for 60 yards on 14 carries.
“For only having three weeks I the offense, he did well,” Southwell said. “He ran the ball well. His decisions were pretty good. He had some drops that were no fault of his own. He threw one or two balls that we’ll have to coach up and get him better, but that first touchdown over there in the corner was a great throw.”
Marinola led Lemon Bay in rushing with 101 yards on 13 carries before leaving with leg cramps near the end of the third quarter. Roberson was the leading receiver with 3 catches for 31 yards.
“They (Berkeley Prep) chose not to sub. They had their five-star recruits in there on offense to drive and score that touchdown,” Southwell said. “Our kids had just played so hard and we had made sure that everybody played. When we got the ball back I just said, ‘First team, lets go get one or two first downs and get out of here’. I thought we owed it to our program and our kids to get the win."