The Sarasota Millionaires showed some rust after a bye week falling behind early and then needed a touchdown in the final two minutes to defeat the Florida Stingrays Saturday night in a thriller in Ft. Myers, Florida.
Patrick “Choo Choo” Brown had a career best night rushing for 165 yards on 24 carries and scored three touchdowns including a two-pointer to lead the Millionaires to their third win of the season. All of the Millionaires wins have been on the road. Sarasota’s only loss was at home to the Bay Area Pirates on February 16.
The Stingrays scored first, midway through the first quarter when Jamie Smith blocked a punt at the Millionaires 22 yard line. One play later Charles Long ran it in from 22 yards to give the Stingrays a 6-0 lead. The extra point was blocked.
On the next Sarasota possession, Cory Hickson intercepted a Mario Davis pass and returned it 73 yards for a touchdown at 5:19 of the first quarter to put the Stingrays up 13-0.
“We gave up 14 to 16 points”, said Millionaires head coach Ernest Givins. “We just gave it to them because we didn’t show up in the first half.”
The Millionaires responded with a deep return of the ensuing kickoff by Marcus Mills to the Ft. Myers 35 yard line. “Choo Choo” Brown kept a deliberate 9 play scoring drive alive with a 9 yard carry on 4th down to pick up first and goal and followed it up with a 3 yard run into the end zone to put the Millionaires on the scoreboard. The two-point conversion was no good. The Stingrays led 13-6 after one quarter.
The Millionaires threatened to score early in the second quarter but that drive was thwarted when Jari McMiller picked off Mario Davis at the goal line.
With 1:10 left in the first half and the ball inside the Stingrays territory to start the drive, the Millionaires went for it on 4th down with 18 seconds left. Mario Davis was intercepted for the third time in the game as Hezekiah Reed picked off a pass and returned it to the Millionaires 16 yard line with 2.1 seconds on the clock. Reynoldo Hernandez booted a 33-yard field goal as time expired to extend the Stingrays lead to 16-6 over the Millionaires.
The third quarter started off strong for the “Moneymen”. Mario Davis lofted a 21-yard touchdown pass to Gus Blanc who made an acrobatic catch in the near corner of the end zone capping off a nine play 80 yard scoring drive pulling the Millionaires to within 16-14 after Choo Choo Brown converted the two-pointer.
Late in the third quarter, the Millionaires forced a turnover recovering a fumble in the backfield at the Stingrays 26-yard line. One play later, Choo Choo Brown rumbled in from 26 yards out to give the Millionaires a 22-16 lead after Marvin “Mo” Harris ran it in for two points.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Stingrays recovered a Mario Davis fumble on a handoff attempt at the Millionaires 42 yard line. On 4th and less than a yard, Quarterback Lonnie Young picked up 7 yards for the first down. Young then picked up his own fumble, eluded a sack and connected with Vance St. Gourdin on a 26-yard touchdown pass as the Stingrays regained the lead 23-22 with 9:11 left in the fourth quarter.
On the Millionaires next possession, Mario Davis fired a 45-yard pass over the middle to Marcus Mills down to the Stingrays 2-yard line. A personal foul on Sarasota pushed the ball back to the 14. Davis then found Terrell Brown in the near corner of the end zone giving the Millionaires a 28-23 advantage after missing the 2-point conversion.
On the next play after the kickoff, Lonnie Young escaped what looked to be a sack and ran it 54 yards to the end zone as the Stingrays took the lead again, 30-28.
“Missed tackles. Everybody hit the man at one time but nobody brought him to the ground. We need to work on a little bit of tackling”, said coach Givins.
The seesaw battle swung back to the Millionaires side as Sarasota traveled 55 yards on 9 plays to retake the lead. On 4th and 3, Choo Choo Brown bulled his way to the first down at the Stingrays 2 yard line, and then powered the ball in from 2 yards out to give the Millionaires a 34-30 lead with 1:29 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Ben Seymour made a great defensive play to knock the ball away from Travis Young with 14 seconds left to prevent a possible winning touchdown for the Stingrays.
“In the second half we got a chance to run the ball effectively”, coach Givins said. ”Our offensive line did a tremendous job. We haven’t had a decent running game since the season started, but tonight it came around. They came through.”
Interviews with Ernest Givens and Patrick “Choo Choo” Brown are posted to this article.
The Millionaires return home to Booker High School next Saturday March 16th to face the Broward County Cowboys. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:00 p.m.