Island Coast falls to Dunbar, 39-27, in playoff quarterfinal
Island Coast High School’s football season came to an end Friday night after dropping its Class 6A Region 4 quarterfinal matchup against Dunbar, 39-27.
The Gators went 2-1 overall in the 2020 FHSAA playoff bracket in Elgin Hicks’ first year as head coach — an impressive showing for a team with both players and coaches acclimating to a new environment for the first time.
The Tigers were just too much offensively on the night, at one point holding a 39-8 lead late in the third quarter. Junior quarterback Daveon Palmer led the way for Dunbar, going 15-for-25 on the night with 321 passing yards, four touchdown passes and two interceptions.
Seniors Gabe Fisher and Jacob Hardin both had stellar nights for the Gators. Fisher finished 15-for-28 with 254 passing yards, three touchdown passes and an interception. Hardin was on the receiving end of all three touchdowns and compiled 181 yards on seven catches.
While the season comes to an end, Hicks said he is proud of the way his team played down the stretch and came together for a playoff run that saw the Gators as the last team standing in Lee County’s West Zone.
“I wanted this to go as long as we could,” Hicks said.
Island Coast’s offense turned it on late in the second half but was unable to overcome the deficit.
The Tigers opened the scoring late in the first quarter when Parker threw a short pass to junior wide receiver Bobby Dennis who evaded Gator tacklers for 21 yards and a score.
Island Coast punted on its next possession but turned Dunbar’s offensive drive into a 50-yard pick six courtesy of junior Dekarai Allen. Fisher’s pass to Allen on the two-point conversion gave the Gators an 8-6 lead.
A snap over the head of Palmer in the second quarter gave Island Coast the ball near midfield, but Dunbar held its ground and forced a punt.
On the ensuing possession, the Tigers put together a 10-play, 85-yard scoring drive capped off by a Reginald “Cash” Davis 10-yard touchdown run and a 14-8 lead for Dunbar.
On the first play of their next drive, Island Coast fumbled to the Tigers, who cashed in just three plays later on a 23-yard touchdown from Palmer to sophomore Anthony Benjamin (95-yards).
Dunbar held Island Coast to under 100 yards of total offense in the first half.
Hicks said the Gators tried to give Dunbar a different look but reverted back to their traditional offense in the second half.
“Watching film for the last week, week and a half, we really thought we could come in here and pound it on them — they’re a lot bigger than we thought,” Hicks said. “I think at the end of the second quarter we realized we needed to come out and just be ourselves. We kind of changed our identity a little bit this game. We eventually started moving the ball passing — this is probably the best passing game we’ve had all year. You live and you learn. And for me, I did a lot of learning today.”
After trading punts to start the second half, Dunbar senior wide out Greg Thomas showed some serious speed, taking a Palmer pass 67 yards up the right sideline after a short reception and turned on the jets.
“Defensively I thought we had a pretty good plan,” Hicks said. “I think we came out and our emotions kind of got us a little bit — we weren’t aligned and kind of scattered. By the time we settled down — you can’t give them a yard.”
The Gators again fumbled to Dunbar on their ensuing possession and once more the Tigers took advantage.
On the third play from scrimmage of a drive that started at the Gator 24-yard line, Palmer threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game, this time to junior Avian Rice for 18 yards and a 33-8 Dunbar lead. An interception return for a touchdown by Dunbar’s Shaun Russ on the next Gator possession all but sealed their fate looking at a 39-8 scoreboard.
Island Count would not give in despite their disadvantage and late in the third quarter Fisher hooked up with Hardin on a 74-yard score. Fisher and Hardin would connect on two more passing touchdowns in the last four minutes; 12 and 39 yard scores, respectively.
“You always want to send your seniors out the right way,” Hicks said. “Jacob had a heck of an offseason and summer, so he deserved the game he had tonight and all of his success this year.”
Fisher, who transferred to Island Coast from an area of the country that did not have a football season due to COVID-19, was impressive with his arm and vision downfield on the move.
“I wish I had him another year,” Hicks said. “His arm is unbelievable. I think we just ran into a problem with timing. We just didn’t have enough time (due to COVID) to get things rocking. It is what it is. He came in and showed leadership and showed the younger guys how to play the game, so it didn’t go in vain.”
Hicks is ready to get back to work and looks forward to having an offseason that allows a more detailed approach with players.
“I’m ready to go to work,” Hicks said. “We are right on and getting ready. Getting these boys on track and getting in the weight room. We’ll definitely be a lot better prepared next year.”
Dunbar will host Palmetto Ridge next week in a regional semifinal game.
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Island Coast 8 0 6 13 27
Dunbar 6 15 18 0 39
D: Bobby Dennis 21-yard reception from Daveon Palmer (kick blocked), 4:36
IC: Dekarai Allen 50-yard interception return (Allen pass from Fisher), :33
D: Reginald “Cash” Davis 10-yard run (Davis run), 2:49
D: Anthony Benjamin 23-yard reception from Parker (Devon Miller kick), 1:35
D: Greg Thomas 67-yard reception from Palmer (kick block), 7:29
D: Avian Rice 18-yard reception from Palmer (kick fail), 5:36
D: Shaun Russ 40-yard interception return (kick fail), 5:05
IC: Jacob Hardin 74-yard reception from Gabe Fisher (2-pt fail), :51
IC: Hardin 12-yard reception from Fisher (Jude Skzrat kick), 3:37
IC: Hardin 39-yard reception from Fisher (no kick), 0:00