On March 26, the Coronado Islanders football team played a game under the lights at Niedermeyer Field in what seemed like the first time in forever. You could feel the excitement in the air among all in attendance, even an hour before kickoff against the University City Centurions. And the game certainly matched all the pre-game buzz, and then some.
The Islanders offense was the first to take the field and they did so with a new signal-caller under center. Freshman QB #19 Hudson Herber got his first career start as an Islander. Coronado’s opening drive would, unfortunately, end in a three and out. On the flip side, the Centurions went on a quick seven-play drive that would set them up with a first and goal at the Coronado 5 yard line. However, with their backs up against the wall, the Islander’s defense stood tough. On first and goal, #75 Clark Anderson and #55 Donny Couts had a meeting in the UC backfield, and the two D-linemen combined for a 4-yard tackle for loss on first and goal. On 3rd and goal #4, Jayden Ferrer made a great open-field tackle to bring up 4th and goal for UC. The centurions went for it rather than kicking a field goal, which proved to be a costly decision as Couts snuffed out the 4th and goal run, giving the ball back to the Coronado offense.
On Coronado’s second drive the offense started to find its rhythm and moved the ball out of the shadow of their endzone. Thanks to back-to-back strong runs for #9 Zane Delcore and #5 Joseph Taylor-Pate, the Islanders picked up two quick first downs. Following a nice catch and run from Herber to Taylor-Pate, the Islanders had the ball at mid-field. The drive stalled yet again, this time due to penalties and a dropped ball on 3rd down. Coach Hines attempted to catch UC sleeping as the Islanders ran a fake, but it was to no avail as the UC defense snuffed it out.
Much of the first half and, really, the entire game, relied on the Islander defense. Despite several drives starting on their own end of the field, Coronado’s defense never blinked. Toward the end of the second quarter, just over a minute before halftime, UC set up shop on the Coronado 16 yard line and looked to be in prime position to take the lead heading into halftime. Following a 3rd and 13 conversion, UC yet again moved the ball inside the Islander 5 yard line. But the wily Islander defense yet again stood tall. On first and goal #6 Gunnar Tonkin made an excellent tackle in the backfield, forcing UC to burn its final timeout of the half. Following an incompletion on 2nd down and a pass break up by Taylor-Pate, it was 4th and goal at the Coronado 2 yard line where UC would again elect to go for the touchdown and would again be denied; this time thanks to a driving pass break up by #22 Elias Valdivia, keeping the score 0-0 at the half.
The defensive game continued into the 3rd quarter, along with continued strong play from the Coronado secondary, as on UC’s opening drive of the 2nd half, Ferrar jumped in front of a pass from UC QB Ikaika Bell and set up Coronado on their 47-yard line. But just two plays later, UC got the ball back after a strip of QB Hudson Herber. With UC back in Coronado territory, it didn’t take long for the Centurions to yet again be on the Islander’s doorstep. But as they had done two times already, Coronado yet again stonewalled them at the goal line and returned the ball to the Islander offense.
It appeared heading into the 4th quarter that neither offense had a solution to either team’s defense. While the Islanders were able to move the ball, they had multiple drives stall due to penalties and turnovers.
However, with 9:08 left in the game, UC QB Bell found his WR Curtis Whitehurst II in the back of the end zone on a fantastic, though debatable, touchdown. Interestingly, instead of going for the extra point, UC went for the two-point conversion, which Coronado defense denied, keeping the game 6-0. After yet another Islander drive stalled, UC got the ball back with 6:05 remaining. Fortunately, as they had all night, Coronado was disruptive on defense and forced a quick 3 & out. Following a shanked punt by the Centurions, Coronado had its best starting field position of the night as they took over at the UC 36 yard line with 4:58 left. And with the short field, the Islanders would finally strike. After a 15 yard first-down carry from #5 Taylor-Pate, Coronado was in the red zone for the first time all night. On the next carry, #9 Zane Delcore, who had been running hard all night, broke free for the game-tying TD run with 3:15 left. And following a converted PAT, the Islanders had a 7-6 lead.
For one final drive, the Islanders needed its defense to keep it up. The Centurions drive seemed to be off to a strong start following a 19 yard gain on a first down screen pass that brought the ball to mid-field. But on 2nd and nine from the Islander 48, UC’s QB rolled to his left and threw into double coverage that cornerback Aiden O’Neil, who has blanketed receivers in the first two weeks, intercepted to give Coronado the ball back with just 2:04 left in the game.
Coronado still needed a first down, with the Centurions having three timeouts remaining, before they could go into victory formation. So who would Coach Hines call on to close his game? On 2 and 12, freshmen QB Herber broke off a 56-yard run, taking the ball all the way down to the UC one-yard line and, more importantly, sealing the victory for the Islanders.
It was an all-around effort for the Islanders, who again showed they simply would not quit. On Friday, April 2, Coronado, now 1-1 on the year, will welcome the conference foe Cardinals of Hoover High School with kickoff scheduled for 7:00pm at Niedermeyer Field.