AVE MARIA, Fla.—In its first home night game, the Gyrenes defeated at Top 25 opponent for the second week in a row.
Despite out-gaining Ave Maria by 74 yards, and getting six more first downs, the Fire were on the short end of a 23-20 contest.A fumble on the first play from scrimmage set the tone for the Fire (3-3, 1-1 Mid-South Sun), which turned the ball over four times, and committed 10 penalties for 94 yards.
“Our defense got us the ball back and created turnovers, but the offense would give the ball back and gave them points and that can’t happen,” said coach Keith Barefield. “We basically gave them nine points, and the margin for error for us this season is not that great.”
Following that first play fumble, the defense stepped up and turned the Gyrenes (3-3, 2-0 Mid-South Sun) over on downs. Southeastern got on the board on the next drive, going 70 yards on four plays with Antwain Adams scoring on a 17-yard pass from Elijah Oltean at the 11:53 mark of the first.
The Fire went on to turn the ball over on their next drive on an interception, but the defense got it back on a fumble recovery. The next play was an interception returned 73 yards for a score.
A pick by Cory Rahman with 25 seconds left in the first quarter gave the Fire the ball at their own three yard line, but on the first play from scrimmage, SEU was taken down in the end zone for a safety.
Ave Maria held a 16-7 lead at the intermission with a 45-yard touchdown pass with 55 seconds remaining in the half.
Bryan Bell broke loose for a 51-yard touchdown run with 8:08 left in the third to bring the Fire within two, but the Gyrenes answered with an eight-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with a two-yard touchdown run.
With just over five minutes to play, the Gyrenes set up for a 26-yard field goal to take a 12-point lead, but Tyson Kee blocked it to set up a Fire touchdown drive.
Ryder Litten took SEU down the field on an 11-play, 82-yard drive that saw Marque Northington catch a touchdown from five yards out to make it a three-point game.
The Fire got the ball back with 42 seconds left, and drove to the Ave Maria 34, but a heave to the end zone fell incomplete.
Bell finished the day as the game’s leading rusher with 153 yards on 19 carries. Oltean and Litten combined to go 14-of-34 for 177 yards, and were sacked five times. Antwain Adams was the top target with seven snags for 93 yards.
The Southeastern offense was just 1-of-10 on third down.
On defense, Lamont Trent was at the top of the tackle chart with 13, including three for loss. Mike Mitchell added seven, with a sack and four for loss.
The Fire conclude their three-game road trip next Saturday with Warner. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. at Lakeland Christian School.