Mariner falls to Gateway Charter in spring football slugfest, 38-28
The Griffins came out on top 38-28, led by a stellar performance on the ground from current freshman Lazaro Rogers.
“It was definitely a challenge,” said Mariner head coach Josh Nicholson, entering his third year at the helm. “Hats off to Gateway. They came out and played a physical game of football, executed well and (Rogers) is a heck of a football player.
“Today was a lot of mental errors. We can play with anybody — we’re just inexperienced,” Nicholson continued. “We’ll watch the film and fix the mistakes, but I like the hustle we saw. I like being pushed. We’ll see how these guys respond in the weight room all summer. This is exactly what we needed, I think.”
As is par for the course in any spring game, the contest featured plenty of cramping players and penalties, but each team showed explosive playmakers that can help their respective programs elevate their status.
The Griffins opened up the scoring with just over five minutes to play in the first quarter, as Deveon Simmons reeled in a 15-yard pass from E.J. Monteagudo to make it 6-0.
Mariner’s offense followed that up with 21 unanswered points, starting with Marcus Kelley Jr.’s 20-yard catch and run from Justin Lewis, fighting through Gateway Charter defenders en route to the end zone.
Kelley Jr. burned his defender again with 10:47 left in the second quarter, this time for a 30-yard score from the arm of Lewis up the left sideline.
A few minutes later, it was Kelvin Jimenez’ turn to get in on the action, as he brought home a 25-yard touchdown from Tanner Evey, upping the Triton lead to 21-6.
“The playmakers made plays,” Nicholson said. “We did a good job once we got rolling in executing. We really didn’t put much (into the playbook), but when we executed, we were successful.”
On the Griffins’ first play after the Jimenez score, Rogers galloped 80 yards up the left sideline for a score to cut the deficit to 21-12.
Roughly three minutes later, Gateway Charter struck again, this time via a Ronaldo Charles 20-yard reception from Monteagudo. The two-point try was unsuccessful and Mariner clung to a 21-20 lead.
On the Tritons’ ensuing possession, disaster struck as Lewis, attempting to scramble away from multiple defenders near his own goal line, attempted to throw the ball away while being tackled. The ball fluttered forward and into the arms of Simmons, who walked into the end zone for the score.
Gateway Charter wasn’t done there. On its final possession before the half, Monteagudo put his head down from 3 yards out and fell into the end zone as time expired, giving his team a 32-21 advantage at the break.
Rogers continued his eye-opening night in the third quarter, weaving his way through defenders for a 41-yard score with 8:07 to play.
Lewis answered with a rushing touchdown of his own on Mariner’s next possession, bulling forward from 2 yards out cutting the Tritons’ deficit to 10.
Scoring came to a halt in the fourth quarter however and Gateway Charter came away with the victory.
Nicholson said he was impressed with the offensive rhythm from his team in the first half. Lewis, Kelley Jr., Jimenez, as well as Noah Tolbert, are all sophomores and showed they can make plays on the offensive side of the ball.
“We definitely have some kids that want to lead, and it’s our job as coaches to teach them how to lead and how to pull the team together,” Nicholson said. “They want to build the program. They want to leave their mark. They’re still young, still inexperienced in the game of football. It’s a growing process, but there’s no doubt they can do it. I have all the belief in the world in this group.”
It’s about more than just the game for Nicholson.
“I use football as a tool to build young men. To build the integrity and character that you want to see in the future of our community,” Nicholson said. “The last two years were setting that standard and holding to it. If kids aren’t good young men, it’s hard to teach them football.”
As the Tritons look to build off of their 2-8 record last season, it’s all about development and commitment. Nicholson has his team on the right path, as his philosophy and coaching style is getting through to his student-athletes.
“We have all the ability in the world,” Nicholson said. “When we’re on, we’re on. I feel like nobody can stop us but us. We have a lot to work on. We have to work on execution. We’ve got to make sure we’re building each other up in the weight room. That’s where it’s going to start. I told them to take this and turn it into a positive. We’re looking forward to August.”
Mariner opens up the regular season against East Lee County (3-7 last year) at home on Aug. 26 at 7 p.m.
The Tritons travel to Gateway High School Aug. 19 for a preseason game.
Mariner 7 14 7 0 — 28
Gateway Charter 6 26 6 0 — 38
GC: Deveon Simmons, 15-yard reception from EJ Monteagudo (2-point try failed) 5:08
M: Marcus Kelley Jr., 20-yard reception from Justin Lewis (Gabriel Chica kick) 3:41
M: Kelley Jr., 30-yard reception from Lewis (Chica kick) 10:27
M: Kelvin Jiminez, 25-yard reception from Tanner Evey (Chica kick) 8:09
GC: Lazaro Rogers, 80-yard run (2-point fail) 7:51
GC: Ronaldo Charles, 20-yard reception from Monteagudo (2-point good) 4:19
GC: Simmons, 3-yard interception return (2-point fail) 4:11
GC: Monteagudo, 3-yard run (2-point fail) 0:00
GC: Rogers, 41-yard run (2-point fail) 8:07
M: Lewis, 2-yard run (Chica kick) 4:43
— Connect with Associate Sports Editor CJ Haddad on Twitter: @haddad_cj