By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
IN A NUTSHELL: DeSoto County always had an answer for Lemon Bay and just made a few more plays to pull out a win in the teams’ District 11-5A opener. After Summer Rusher’s 35-yard field goal got Lemon Bay on the board first with a 3-0 lead, Arnold Mele returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards to put DeSoto County ahead in a hurry 6-3. The Bulldogs had another answer later when Brayden Curry put the Manta Rays ahead with a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Quarterback Malcolm Smith hooked up with Kawassmi Wilson for a 30-yard completion and then a 15-yard touchdown on the following two plays, which turned out to be the game winning score.
DID YOU SEE THAT: Arnold Mele quieted Lemon Bay’s crowd quickly after Summer Rusher’s field goal put the first points in the board. Mele zipped back and forth through defenders and found a seam up the middle for an 83-yard touchdown on the ensuing kickoff.
THE GAME WAS OVER WHEN: With DeSoto County holding onto a 16-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter, Lemon Bay was driving at the Desoto County 41-yard line. But Hayden Wolff’s pitch on the next play didn’t go as planned, instead, bouncing off the hands of Brayden Curry and falling to the crowd. Tyreke Evans quickly pounced on the loose ball to recover it for DeSoto County. Lemon Bay never crossed midfield again.
UNSUNG HERO: Cesar Barrajas bounced back from a missed extra point and missed field goal to later convert a 38-yard field goal and extra point. But his biggest play of the game came on a punt late in the fourth quarter. Barrajas pinned Lemon Bay at its own one-yard line with less than four minutes to play. Lemon Bay converted one first down but couldn’t make it across its own 25-yard line before Montreal Riley sacked Hayden Wolff on fourth down to end the Manta Rays’ slim hopes of a comeback.
DESOTO COUNTY 16, LEMON BAY 10
DeSoto County 6 3 7 0 —16
Lemon Bay 3 0 7 0 — 10
First Downs 9 10
Rushes/yds 27-35 42-170
Passing yds 157 86
C-A-I 11-17-2 5-10-0
Fumbles/lost 3-0 3-1
Penalties/yds 8-70 7-45
LB — Rusher 23 FG 6:58
DC — Mele 83 kickoff return (kick failed) 6:45
DC — Barrajas 38 FG
LB — Curry 1 run (Rusher kick) 7:45
DC — Wilson 15 pass from Smith (Barrajas kick) 7:08
Rushing: DeSoto County: Arnold Mele 7-21, LaQuan Griffen 6-17, Malcolm Smith 7-6, Elijah Arthur 1-5, Tyrese Smith 3- -5, Kawassmi Wilson 3- -9; Lemon Bay: Brayden Curry 22-115, Victor Mellor 11-55, Hunter Weir, 5-5, Logan Lydic 2-3, Hayden Wolff 2- -9
Passing: DeSoto County: Malcolm Smith 11-17-157-1; Lemon Bay: Hayden Wolff 5-10-86-0.
Receiving: DeSoto County: Arnold Mele 2-47, Kawassmi 2-45, Emmanuel Wesley 3-33, Tyreke Evans 3-24, Semaj Elrod 1-8; Lemon Bay: Victor Mellor: 2-43, Brenden Shuman 2-35, Logan Lydic 1-8.