UPDATED – 7:48 a.m. Nov. 20
LOXAHATCHEE – The Vero Beach Fighting Indians traveled to Loxahatchee Friday night to take on Seminole Ridge in the first round of the playoffs.
Despite a strong effort, the team came up short with a 37-15 loss, ending their season.
“Every season we come in with a target on our backs,” Vero Beach Coach Gary Coggin said. “Five years in a row we’ve made the play offs. Every kid knows this at the beginning of the season.”
Seminole Ridge came in as the District 8-6A champion with a 9-1 record. Vero Beach came in as the District 7-6A runner-up with a record of 6-3.
“They play a balanced wing-T. They are 10-1 for a reason,” Coggin said of Seminole Ridge.
Vero Beach was coming off back-to-back disappointing weeks with losses to Treasure Coast and Palm Bay.
With the week off before the playoff game, Vero looked to get healthy after a flu-bug caused many of the players to miss practice before the Palm Bay game.
In the first quarter, Seminole Ridge was first to get on the scoreboard, when Gary Holmes found the end zone on a 3-yard touchdown. As the first half came to a close, Seminole Ridge kicker Maxx Neilsen hit a 22-yard field with 3 seconds left. At the end of the first half, Seminole Ridge led 10-0.
In the third quarter, Vero Beach quarterback Todd Fennell hooked up with Rakeem Marcelle on a 49-yard touchdown pass. With the extra point, Vero Beach pulled within three points of Seminole Ridge, 10-7.
But with 2:54 left in the third quarter, Seminole Ridge found the end zone again as Alexander Pierre ran for a 47-yard touchdown. Seminole Ridge extended its lead back to 10 points.
In the fourth quarter, Seminole Ridge lined for a field goal, but faked the play setting up running back Tyler Butler to find the end zone on a 10-yard touchdown run.
The extra point was blocked. Seminole Ridge extended their lead to 23-7.
Vero Beach responded with a touchdown of its own as Todd Fennell found Rakeem Marcelle again, this time on a 45-yard touchdown pass.
“The big plays kept us in the game and got us in the game,” Coach Coggin said. “We were running the ball enough to make them respect it. We were using the run to step up the pass.” Vero Beach was successful on its two-point conversion as E.J. Pryor hooked up with Todd Fennell.
Vero Beach lined up for onside kick. On their first attempt, Seminole Ridge was called for off sides. Vero Beach attempted the onside kick again and Seminole Ridge recovered with excellent field position.
During Vero Beach’s kick off, Seminole Ridge running back Gary Holmes had a 50-yard touchdown run. Seminole Ridge increased their lead to 30-15.
As Vero Beach tried to get back into the game, Todd Fennell was intercepted by Alexander Pierre-Louis at the 25 yard line. Pierre-Louis returned the interception 75-yards for the touchdown.
The final score was Seminole Ridge Hawks 37, Vero Beach Fighting Indians 15.
“We moved the ball well,” Coach Coggin said. “Had some injuries, three defensive linemen went down. But the kids wouldn’t give up. They wouldn’t quit.”
The Fighting Indians end their season with a record of 6-4.
“I’ve coached for 33 years and never had a team that has been closer than this group,” Coach Coggin on the season. “The character and closeness of this team is unusual. They openly care about one another. I am humbled by the attitude and effort that our kids displayed all season long. The record is not what we would have liked. Football takes some crazy bounces but we had some great moments and high peaks. Some games got away from us, but they never gave up, they never quit.”
Coach Coggin added that he was proud of the support shown in the community.
“We have great community support,” he said. “The band, the cheerleaders, and the football team are one. The proudest I am of Vero Beach football is that we are a classy program. We try to develop human beings, not just football players.”