he Marco Island Academy Rays football team got lessons in winning and losing during their recent games, an exciting 16-14 home win against Keswick Academy of St. Petersburg on September 29 and a humbling 41-13 road loss at local power First Baptist Academy on October 6.
Such are the fates of a young charter school football team. When playing teams with similar circumstances, like Keswick, the Rays go toe-to-toe and often come away winners. When facing talent-laden programs like First Baptist Academy (FBA), it is often tough sledding for the Marco Islanders.
The win over Keswick evened the Rays season record at 2-2. A .500 record is not something the Rays have experienced often in their six-year history. In fact the only other time the Rays were .500 after four games came in 2014, when they finished with their best record ever, 4-6.
Head coach Damon Coiro is aware of where his team stands. He took some satisfaction with the team’s win over Keswick.
“A win is a win,” Coiro said after his Rays withstood a late rally by Keswick. “We’re going to keep grinding. We’re going to keep doing what we do. We’re going to keep working hard. We’re 2-2 right now.”
Against Keswick, the Rays were led by defensive back Tyler Pasko’s two interceptions and a strong effort on offense and defense by Austin Brooks, who rumbled for 117 yards on the ground and made a key interception on the one-yard line on a fake field goal by Keswick. Brooks and Pasko also ran for the Rays TDs against Keswick; Brooks a 4-yarder and Pasko a 15-yard effort. Kicker Josh Dacruz provided the winning points with his 30-yard field goal.
Against FBA, who has averaged over nine wins a season over the past six years, the Rays fought gamely—and never gave up. But like in their earlier loss to St. John Neumann, the Rays were unable to stop their opponent’s big gun, the coach’s son.
This time the coach’s son, Joseph Sparacio, ran for 155 yards and two touchdowns in roughly a half of work. FBA quarterback Cole Burlison also had a good night, throwing for three touchdowns.
The Rays found yards hard to come by against FBA, with the hard running Brooks leading the way, carrying 13 times for 33 yards. Freshman quarterback Kyler Howard looked poised, connecting with Dylan Barbaro for an 8-yard touchdown pass and scoring the Rays final touchdown on a one yard run in the fourth quarter.
Coiro had the demeanor of a realist following the academy’s loss to First Baptist Academy. “This is an indicator of where we are,” Coiro said. “We’re young. We’re learning how to compete. We need to get bigger and stronger. And you know what, these kids will continue to fight. They’ll work hard to get better. This is why FBA is on our schedule.”
The 2-3 Rays travel to Ft. Myers to take on 4-1 Southwest Florida Christian on Friday, October 13 at 7 PM. The Rays and Kings have one common opponent, Oasis Charter, so far in 2017. The Rays beat Oasis 37-6. The Kings scored a similar win, 38-0. On Friday, October 20 at 7 PM, the Rays host 1-3 Gateway Charter at Winterberry Field. Coincidentally, Gateway’s one win is against Oasis Charter, 54-15.