Two long touchdowns in the second quarter and a stout defense that produced five takeaways were what the Chiefland Indians needed to start their season 4-0 Friday in a 14-7 home win over Dixie County.
Chiefland entered the game putting up 59, 56 and 32 points in its first three blowout wins, but this contest featured a new physicality that was expected by both coaches.
“It was what we thought it was going to be, which was a tough, physical, four quarters game,” Chiefland coach Adam Gore said. “That’s how Dixie County plays. They are a well-coached team. We hadn’t played four quarters yet really and we knew we had to play for four quarters in this one.”
The game didn’t start on the right foot for the hosting Indians as they coughed the ball up on their second play from scrimmage, but neither team could get things going in the first quarter that saw neither squad gain a first down.
It was the second quarter where Chiefland (4-0) capitalized on the visiting Bears mistakes starting when Dixie County lost a fumble at the Chiefland 38-yard line. On the next play, Indians quarterback Donovan Minichello found Clint Thomas on a short pass that saw Thomas outrace and stiff arm his way 62 yards down the left sideline for the game’s first touchdown.
Dixie County (2-2) would fumble away the ball twice more in the middle of the quarter with its third turnover of the frame setting up Chiefland running back Jamie Strong to slash outside and outdistance the Bears defense 64 yards for another Indians touchdown.
“We’ve got to hold on to the football,” Dixie County coach L.B. Cravey said. “We lost the turnover battle tonight and it was very important. Overall I was proud of our effort, but just not on the execution.”
The two teams traded fumbles in the third quarter that started to see emotions run high with three unsportsmanlike penalty flags thrown and very aggressive hits that led to a handful of players on both sides needing to be pulled away from the action to calm down.
Dixie County went on its lone scoring drive of the game starting at the end of the third quarter when it held to Chiefland to a 3-and-out series on defense as they converted on fourth down twice before Bears quarterback Brett Nettles connected with Brenden Hall on a 17-yard touchdown throw that closed the gap to within 14-7 with 10:12 remaining.
In the final six minutes, Dixie County had its opportunities as they forced Chiefland to punt with 4:26 left, only to have the Indians’ Dakota Fisher step in front of the slot receiver for an interception. Chiefland looked like it would seal the contest as they pounded the ball down with their run game inside the 5-yard line, but Dixie County recovered a fumble with 1:19 left at its 3.
The Bears had one last desperation drive starting with a quick 16-yard pass on their first play, but Nettles was sacked on the next two plays, threw an incomplete pass and then a short pass to end the contest.
“At the end of the day we played well and had enough breaks to win,” Gore said.
Next Friday, Dixie County travels to Jasper to play Hamilton County while Chiefland has a bye week before hosting Trenton on Oct. 1.
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