The Key West High School Fighting Conchs (2-3) suffered their third loss of the season last Friday night against powerhouse Delray American Heritage (3-1). The Stallions dominated the game, picking up the 48-20 victory.
American Heritage got off to a fast start on offense. With a couple quick passes and a four yard rushing touchdown, the Stallions were up 7-0 with nine minutes left in the first quarter. Key West would struggle on their first drive but would pick up a first down on their own 40 yard line on 4th down. Senior Mekhi Sargent would rush the ball up the gut of the defense down the sideline for a 20 yard gain. Minutes left and driving, the Conchs would be unable to convert another 4th down and Heritage would take over on offense with 3:19 left in the first quarter.
With under minute left in the quarter, the Stallions would be once again in the red zone. A penalty on the offense would push back Heritage, but not for long. On a 14 yard rush, the lead would be extended to 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Turnovers would plague the Conchs offense in the second quarter. Starting on the Conchs own 29 yard line, quarterback Michael Cleaver would mishandle the ball and the Stallions defense would recover the pigskin. Minutes later, Delray further extended the lead to a 3 touchdown difference with 10:21 left in the half.
The Stallions hard hitting defense would force another fumble and charge into the red zone. Key West, frustrated with their turnovers, would leave a wide open receiver in the end zone and allow Delray to go up 28-0 with only nine minutes left in the first half. Key West would finally be able to get yardage on offense with a short screen pass from Cleaver to Sargent. 15 yards would be tagged on to the 25 yard screen pass and the Conchs would have the ball on the Stallions 38 yard line looking to score with 5:35 left in the half.
However, on the next play, Key West would cough the ball up and Delray would recover. On offense once again, the Stallions’ quarterback Cameron Smith would air the ball out to and complete a 50 yard pass down to the Conchs’ 20 yard line. Another pinpoint pass from Smith and over the shoulder pass to running back DJ Davis for another wide open touchdown, the Stallions took the 35-0 with two minutes left in the half. With under a minute left in the first half, Sargent broke free for a 47 yard rush leading the Conchs into the red zone. The very next play, quarterback Michael Cleaver found Alvin Howard wide open for a 25 yard touchdown. At halftime, the Stallions were up 35-7.
Turnovers would continue to hurt the Conch’s offense. A fumble and a pick six in the third quarter, American Heritage jumped out to a 42-7 lead. With 7:56 left in the third, sophomore Kolby Kelleher had a big run of his own and scored with a 30 yard touchdown bringing the score to 42-14. The Conchs would score again on the final play of the game but not before the Stallions would push the lead to 28. The game would end in a 48-20 victory for American Heritage.
Moving forward, the Conchs have four weeks of Gold Coast Conference game on their remaining schedule. Tonight, Key West clashes with the Pembroke Pines Charter Jaguars. The Jaguars (1-3) lost to Gold Coast opponent Archbishop McCarthy 49-3 last week. If Key West picks up victories against each of the next opponents, the Conchs would secure a postseason spot and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Similar to the Conchs, the Jaguars run a triple option offense, but according to head coach John Hughes that would help the Key West defense as they are well aware with the style of offense. The Conchs triple offense has been a powerhouse on running the ball with Sargent as the main back. The senior passed former Conch Corey Sawyer’s total yardage of 3,226 in a career. Sargent is Key West’s all-time rushing leader and now all-purpose yards leader. Key West is ranked 4th in the state overall with 1,829 rushing yards and 8th in the state with 2,179 all-purpose yards on offense.
If Key West hopes to return to the Gold Coast Conference playoffs, they must take care of business in the next three games. The Conchs face off against Archbishop McCarthy next week and Inlet Grove the following week. First the Conchs must focus on tonight’s game against Pembroke Pine Charter under the lights at Tommy Roberts Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is at 7pm.