Last year in Ocala the Gainesville football team kept Trinity Catholic (Ocala) out of the end zone in a 7-3 defensive slugfest.
But on Thursday night at Citizens Field, the visiting Celtics needed just two possessions to score a touchdown on their way to a 48-3 victory against winless GHS.
The youth showed up for the Hurricanes, who have played a tough early season schedule.
“We’ve played four really good football teams, including the kickoff classic, with a roster that is comprised of 75% of freshmen and sophomores and probably 65% of them have never played varsity football before,” said Gainesville coach Dock Pollard. “We’re going to take our growing pains, but at the same time we did improve. We saw more effort, we saw more energy, we saw more togetherness. The score doesn’t necessarily reflect the victory that we had tonight.”
All four of those teams (North Marion in the preseason, followed by Ocala Vanguard, Orlando Bishop Moore and Trinity Catholic) are ranked in the top 12 in the state in their respective classification.
Trinity Catholic, which is ranked fourth in the state in Class 1S, began its second possession of the game at its own 20-yard line with 7:38 to play in the opening quarter.
On the fifth play of the drive, junior running back Jamarkus Starkes scored on a 43-yard run with 5:34 to play in the first quarter. Justin Arroyo’s extra point gave the Celtics a 7-0 lead, which they would never relinquish.
In fact, Gainesville had negative yardage (minus 16) in the opening half.
The only score for GHS (0-3) came on a 43-yard field goal by junior kicker Cooper Badics to make the score 21-3 with 4:13 to play in the first half.
Badics also had a booming 47-yard punt in the second quarter.
“He’s a veteran player, experienced player” Pollard said. “He’s played a lot of varsity snaps. He’s always been consistent. He had his inexperienced moments over the years, but year three he’s been a rock.”
Trinity Catholic’s Beau Beard had a 6-yard scoring run with 8:47 to play in the half for a 21-0 lead.
The senior added an 8-yard touchdown run after the field goal and a weather delay, which came with 2:53 to play in the half, to give the Celtics (2-1) a 28-3 lead at the break.
Field and playing conditions made things even more difficult to overcome in the second half.
“That’s part of the youth and inexperience is adjusting to the elements as well as trying to adjust to what is going on in actual game speed,” Pollard said. “For a young, inexperienced ballclub, anything that pulls them out of the norm is going to be tougher.”
The Celtics put the nail in the coffin when Brice Summerall picked off sophomore Mason Zwilling’s pass at the Trinity Catholic 28-yard line and returned it 72 yards for the score for a 34-3 lead just two minutes into the second half.
A little over three minutes later, reserve quarterback Preston Wright completed a 50-yard scoring pass to fellow sophomore Austin Holder to impose a running clock.
Despite the lopsided score, Pollard remained optimistic and encouraged his team.
“I told them I was proud of them,” he said. “I still think that we have the ability to set ourselves up to play for a district championship.”
GHS, which won a district title last season, will host Clay (Green Cove Springs) next Thursday night in the new Class 3S-District 4 opener for both teams.
“Going into district play when things start to kind of balance out for us, I think we’ll be better in district play because of these four games that we’ve played early in the year,” Pollard said. “They’re still puppies, but at some point they’re going to mature and I think that going into district play we have an opportunity to come out on top.”
Williston 49, Dixie County (Cross City) 0 – Due to predicted thunderstorms and shortage of game officials, Dixie County’s home game against Williston on Friday night was moved to Thursday night.
And the Red Devils posted a convincing shutout on the road for the second consecutive week.
Last week, Williston, which defeated Weeki Wachee, 42-0, scored on its opening drive. They built a commanding 42-0 lead at the half.
Dixie County, which dropped to 1-2, will host Chiefland next Friday, while Williston, which improve to 2-0 under first-year head coach Robby Pruitt, travels to Branford.