For the Lakewood Ranch High School football team, a postseason berth wasn't going to be an option. However, there's still a lot to be said for a strong finish.
Powered by a ball-control rushing game, the host Mustangs rolled to a 33-14 decision over Sarasota on senior night.
The triumph lifts the Mustangs to 5-3 and 2-2 in district play and clinches a winning season for Lakewood Ranch. Sarasota drops to marks of 2-7 and 1-3.
"Football explains life in a lot of ways," Lakewood Ranch coach Mick Koczersut said. "Things don't always go your way, so you've got one of two choices next Friday, you can lay down or get up and fight and I've been happy with our kids, the way we've fought back the last two weeks."
Never miss a local story.
Leading the way for the Lakewood Ranch ground attack was Justin Fishcher, who ran up 193 yards on 26 carries. Quarterback Chad Rex added 98 yards on 13 tries.
"We played strong and put a lot of points on the board," Fishcher said. "Our offensive line has been strong all year and the defense helped us out a lot tonight."
The Mustangs drew first blood with a seven-yard run from Rex in the first quarter. The Sailors countered with a nine-yard pass from Xakari Hawkins to Talik Keaton at the 2:02 mark. Lakewood Ranch took a 13-7 lead at intermission after a three-yard run from Rex.
Probably the key play in the contest came late in the third quarter.
Following a 32-yard touchdown scamper from Devin Logan, Sarasota was within 20-14 with 5:52 left in the period. However, just one play after the ensuing kickoff, the Mustangs regained control with a 65-yard gallop from Rex, the third of his four touchdowns on the night.
"That was being one guy short - being in the right angle and doing the right thing," Sarasota coach Brian Ryals said. " I'm very proud of what we did. We just have to keep working and get better each week. That's a pretty good Lakewood Ranch team."
"The offensive line has been a work in progress and the work they've put in is starting to show right now," Koczersut said.
Rex finished the night's scoring with an 11-yard touchdown toss to Brenden Hadley with just over three minutes left in the final period.
With Rex accounting for all five Mustang touchdowns, Koczersut thought the quarterback's game management was the key factor in the win.
"The run (65 yards) was good, but the decisions he made to run the football was what I was happy about," Koczersut said. "Chad has got better at that - he had the option to hand off or throw and he made the right deci
sion by running."
Lakewood Ranch finishes the season Friday at Port Charlotte.