For Marco Island Academy and St. John Neumann it is a must-win situation when they battle at 7 p.m. on Friday at Winterberry Park on Marco Island.
This game has strong implications for Class 2A District 10 playoffs.
MIA is 2-3 and 0-1 in district games. St. John Neumann is 2-3 and 1-1 in district action.
The front runner as expected is First Baptist Academy at 2-0. Evangelical Christian and Moorehaven are 1-1. The top two teams make the playoffs.
Should the Manta Rays lose to the Celtics, it will have a tough road ahead with First Baptist Academy and Evangelical Christian left to play. The Celtics will have only Moorehaven to play in its last game of its season on Oct. 31.
Both teams have suffered huge losses in their last two outings.
“We need to make sure we are sound on defense,” Celtics coach Alfredo Molina said. “In the last two games we have not been sound on defense. Our offense needs to finish drives. We need to put a complete game together.”
Manta Rays coach Greg Fowler has similar thoughts.
“We have made some adjustments on offense as we haven’t been able to run up the middle, to help the passing game,” he said. “We have struggled with our running game as a whole. Defensively, we have done well against the pass, but need improvement in our rushing defense.”
The rushing game for the Celtics is where Molina thinks they have to execute well to win.
“Our offensive line is playing well, we’ve been able to run the ball,” he said. “Key is to have a great ground attack.”
He knows MIA is a much improved club from the Celtics’ one-sided win a year ago.
“They are a good club. We have to stop their running and passing game,” Molina said. “Their quarterback throws a good ball and they have strong receivers.”
Marco Island Academy has many offensive weapons, starting with Cayden Couture. He caught two touchdown passes and gained another 50 yards rushing in last week’s loss to Jupiter Christian Academy.
“Cayden is a productive offensive weapon,” Fowler said. “Running and receiving, he is a threat.”
Receivers Tyler Wallace and Cole Stretton have also been targets of quarterback Andrew Fowler.
“Cole has been big on offense and defense,” Fowler said.
Back in action is Patrick Michel who missed three weeks for fighting.
“Patrick makes a difference on both sides of the ball,” Fowler said. “With him on the field it helps our offense and defense. He is capable of making big plays on both sides of the ball.”
Defensively safety Gottfried Joseph has been playing well, along with guard Fritz LaRose.
“We are a young team up front,” Fowler said. “We have talent and when they get time to hit the weight room they will gain strength they need to continue improving.”
Over the summer Bob Cholka, Marco Fitness Club, provided free memberships for the team to use the weight and conditioning equipment. Cholka has advanced free memberships to the entire school.
“They don’t have a fitness facility and I decided to offer it to the school,” he said. There are now 79 students, mostly athletes, using the club.
“He has been outstanding,” Fowler said. “He has done everything to help our program out.”
The Manta Rays have no other facility, unlike most schools who have designated weight rooms.
Molina’s staff has been telling their team that after tough losses they need to keep their heads up.
“We have been stressing the importance in winning, that they need to understand we can make the playoffs. We take one game at a time,” Molina stressed.
Fowler knows his team will battle Friday night.
“We’re young, but we continue to get better,” he said.
That’s what he likes about high school football.
“On any given Friday night things can fall into place. It is still up to us to make the playoffs.”