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Dunbar wants to keep winning for community wrecked by Hurricane Ian

The Tigers are in the Class 3S semifinals after missing a month due to the storm

FORT MYERS, FLORIDA -- The Dunbar High School football team is playing its best ball of the season at the right time. In fact, the Tigers are on the best run in school history and one of the best Lee County has ever seen.

Heading into Friday's state semifinals, Dunbar has finally found its rhythm after, a few months ago, the Tigers didn't know if they'd get to play again this season.

Hurricane Ian tore through Southwest Florida on Sept. 28, and Dunbar was located right in the middle of the storm's path in Fort Myers. The Tigers went four weeks without a game.

However, the rust was long gone last week when Dunbar knocked off two-time state champion program Naples to win the program's first regional championship.

"We're starting to gel at the right time," Tigers coach Sammy Brown said. "That's half the battle -- if you can come together when it counts."

Now Dunbar (10-1) hosts Daytona Beach Mainland (10-3) in the Class 3S final four. The winner goes to the state championship game in Fort Lauderdale sometime between Dec. 15-17 (schedule TBD).

It would be another historic step for a team that's already made local history.

Just by winning a regional title, Dunbar has done what few other Lee County teams have. Before last week, only 10 teams from Lee County had reached the state semifinals, and it hadn't happened since 2010.

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Only three teams from Lee County have made it to the state championship game, and none has won. The last time it happened was Estero High in 1998. Brown, in his seventh season as Dunbar's head coach, was an assistant on that Estero team.

"Yeah, I want to go to state as the head coach," Brown said. "But even more I want to do it for the community -- for the community of Dunbar, and Fort Myers, and all of Lee County."

To reach the state finals, the Tigers' defense will need the same effort it had against Naples in the regional championship.

Naples came into the game averaging 322.6 rushing yards per game. Dunbar held the Eagles to 141. The Tigers held Naples running back Kendrick Raphael, who recently committed to N.C. State, to 82 yards, his second-worst output of the season.

The Tigers won 14-7 last week, and both their touchdowns came after forcing Naples turnovers.

Dunbar's defense has held opponents to less than 16 points per game this season. Take out the Tigers' only loss (43-12 on the road to Georgia power Lowndes), and the defense has allowed just 13.1 points per game in 10 wins.

The Tigers got to the semifinals by shutting down Naples' rush. To win Friday, they'll have to stop Mainland's pass. The Buccaneers average 227.7 yards through the air per game, led by senior quarterback Damarcus Creecy (2,696 yards, 28 touchdowns, 6 interceptions). Creecy also leads the team with 475 rushing yards.

Dunbar likely will need more offense after gaining just 116 yards last week. The Tigers have been nearly perfectly balanced this season behind senior quarterback Landon Winterbottom (1,512 passing yards, 21 TDs) and senior running back David Perkins (838 yards, 7 TDs). Dunbar averages 143.3 passing yards and 145.8 rushing yards per game.