ARCADIA — Quarterback Tony Blanding scored twice in the fourth quarter as DeSoto County came from behind to defeat Mariner, 20-14, in the Class 5A-District 13 opener for both teams Friday night.
Taking advantage of the Tritons fourth and fifth lost fumbles of the night, the Bulldogs only had to go a combined total of 17 yards to score two touchdowns after failing to capitalize on several earlier opportunities.
Yarzmen Wesley quarterbacked DeSoto in the first half as Blanding sat it out after missing a practice during the week. Once Blanding entered the game, the Bulldogs moved the ball better and got their passing game going, but still trailed 14-6 in the fourth quarter before Nathan Sanchez recovered a Mariner fumble at the 12 yard line midway through the period. William Maybel gained 10 yards to move the ball to the 2 yard line before Blanding made his way across the goal line to cut the lead to 14-12 with 6:01 to play. However, Blanding bobbled the snap on the 2-point conversion attempt and DeSoto still trailed.
Moments later, the Bulldog defense forced the Tritons to punt from their own 30. The snap sailed over the punter’s head and Jakeemis Pelham fell on the ball at the 5 yard line. Two plays later, Blanding faked a handoff and swept around the left side to score the go-ahead TD with 3:06 remiaining. Ethan Redden added a 2-point conversion run and the Bulldog defense held the Tritons from there.
Key Plays: After falling behind 7-0, the Bulldog offense got a spark when Redden gained 23 yards on a fake punt near the end of the first quarter. Wesley ran for 21 yards on the next play to bring the ball to the Tritons 9-yard line. Maybel gained 8 yards and Redden bulled over from the 1-yard line to cut the lead to 7-6 with 23 seconds to go in the quarter.
A sequence in the third quarter typified the way things were going for the Bulldog offense. Sanchez recovered a Triton fumble at the 21 yard line, but after a holding penalty and two sacks, DeSoto found itself facing a 3rd-and-41 from midfield.
In the fourth quarter, a 50 yard completion from Blanding to Wesley moved the ball to the Mariner 28, but Pelham lost a fumble after picking up an apparent first down at the 12. Two plays later, Sanchez made his second recovery of the night and the Bulldogs finally scored to close the gap to two points.
With the Tritons driving at the end, Keimar Brown-Richardson sacked Mariner QB Dylan Silverman on third down, and Maybel intercepted a Dylan Hinz pass on fourth down to seal the victory.
Key Stats: Maybel led the Bulldogs rushing attack with 48 yards on 9 carries. Redden added 35 yards on 4 attempts. Blanding was 4 for 5 passing for 85 yards after DeSoto had zero passing yards in the first half. Meanwhile, the Bulldog defense held Mariner to just three first downs in the second half, as the Tritons totaled only 145 total yards for the game.
What it means: DeSoto wins its district opener, evens its record at 2-2, and after a bye week, heads into its next district contest at Cape Coral with some momentum.
What they said: “That was a rough one but we came away with a win,” DeSoto coach Bumper Hay said. “We should have played better. They turned the ball over, but we made a lot of mistakes. We killed our drives with penalties and bad snaps, so we’ve got to get better with that. It was ugly but we did it and we’re 1-0 in the district and hopefully we can get better from here.”