Gulf Coast scored a come-from-behind victory over Palmetto Ridge on Friday night in a non-district matchup of two teams with huge games on the horizon next week.
The Sharks shook off a 13-point second half deficit to top the Bears 24-23 at Palmetto Ridge behind 182 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns from senior running Brendon Drugan.
Gulf Coast will take on South Fort Myers on Friday for the District 7A-12 championship while Palmetto Ridge will play Golden Gate on Friday in another game with region playoff implications in Class 6A.
“Football is all about momentum,” Gulf Coast coach Pete Fominaya said. “I’ve learned throughout my career that it is about the hot team and not really the best team. This was a good win for coming off the bye week and now we’re going to get ready for a big time district championship game.”
Palmetto Ridge (6-2) led 16-10 at halftime thanks in large part to junior Dominique Linton. Linton had two receiving touchdowns from senior quarterback Cody Young in the first half and intercepted a Sharks pass.
The Bears extended that lead to 23-10 on the first possession of the second half after driving 95 yards for a touchdown. Senior running back Jaheem Washington capped that drive with a 6-yard touchdown run.
Gulf Coast (6-2) stiffened defensively after that drive however as the Sharks did not allow a point in the final 21:58 of play.
Drugan’s 10-yard touchdown run brought his team back within one score with 7:17 left in the third quarter and senior Trejon Trigg’s 17-yard touchdown run put the Sharks up for good 24-23 with 4:29 left in the third.
The Sharks recovered a key Palmetto Ridge fumble in their own red zone and returned it past midfield with 6:18 left in the fourth quarter to stall the Bears’ attempt to take the lead. The Sharks then ran the clock out behind two first downs and sophomore quarterback Kaden Frost running backwards 39 yards on the game’s final play as time expired.
“We’ve just got to get better,” Palmetto Ridge coach Chris Toukonen said. “We had two or three drives (in the second half) where we didn’t execute. You can’t do that and beat a good football team.”
Washington led all rushers with 206 yards on 25 carries. Drugan rushed for 110 yards and had 72 receiving yards for Gulf Coast.
GULF COAST 24, PALMETTO RIDGE 23
Gulf Coast 7 3 14 0–24
Palmetto Ridge 3 13 7 0–23
Palmetto Ridge: Cameron Taylor 29 FG
Gulf Coast: Brendon Drugan 30 pass from Kaden Frost (Cameron Heise kick)
Gulf Coast: Heise 35 FG
Palmetto Ridge: Dominique Linton 47 pass from Cody Young (kick blocked)
Palmetto Ridge: Linton 9 pass from Young (Taylor kick)
Palmetto Ridge: Washington 6 run (Taylor kick)
Gulf Coast: Drugan 10 run (Heise kick)
Gulf Coast: Trejon Trigg 17 run (Heise kick)