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Gainesville

Showdown at Citizen’s Field ends in draw

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By Curtis Michaud
Twitter – @goodvibescurt

On Friday Night at Citizens Field in Gainesville, the Gainesville Hurricanes and Forest (Ocala) Wildcats varsity football teams ended their long-awaited spring game with a draw, 7-7, that left both coaches eager for what the fall season may look like as they head into the summer.

This non-district matchup was the first time these two teams met on the gridiron since the coronavirus pandemic, which was the cause for both programs’ inability to have a spring game last year and a shortened season.

“We didn’t get a spring last year which set us back,” said GHS head coach Dock Pollard. “Couldn’t be more happier and excited for the way our guys played tonight, especially the young guys.”

With both teams struggling offensively throughout the first two quarters, it was setting up to be a low scoring and hard-fought affair.

Both defenses held their own in the first half shutting out the opposing teams’ offenses where it looked like the team who can impose their will in the trenches and control the line of scrimmage was going to have a significant advantage through the game.

“The defense played very well,” said Wildcats’ head coach Robin Williams. “I’m impressed on how they played overall. They played their butt off.”

Both Pollard and Williams acknowledged that injuries and some inexperience on the offensive side of the ball had something to do with their inability to mustard some momentum.

“Our center only had six starts,” Pollard said. “He’s the only one that has some real game time experience.”

Three-star senior defensive end Elijah Russell of Forest was giving the Hurricanes’ offensive line fits throughout the first half, batting freshman quarterback Shooby Coleman passes occasionally.

“By his standard, he really played exceptionally well, filling up the stat sheet with about two or three and 10 tackles,” Williams said.

With Russel only playing about two and a half quarters dealing with cramps periodically, Williams said he isn’t concerned with the health of his 6-foot-8 defensive end moving forward.

The second half was a different story and started off with a bang.

Forest senior quarterback Stephen Curry Jr. completed a deep pass down the field against man-on-man defense taking the Wildcats to the Hurricanes 20-yard line looking to put the first points on the board.

However, after a  pass interference penalty being called in the endzone had the Wildcats marching closer for some points, the Canes’ defense buckled down and stood tall forcing a turnover with a big interception by senior cornerback Dyoni Hill.

“I told the defense they had to hold their back and not give in,” Pollard said. “We got the turnover even though our back was against our end zone.”

GHS then took the ball and drove the down the field into Wildcats’ territory with some hard running by junior running back Kyree Edwards.

Unfortunately, with 5:43 left in the third quarter, an unsportsmanlike conduct and holding penalty on the offense halted that drive resulting in a 30-yard punt.

With a couple of three and outs by both teams, the Wildcats took over possession on their own 14-yard line and once again quarterback Curry Jr. delivered another strike down the sideline.

This time three-star athlete Izaiah Guy made a huge reception right before the end of third that led to a six-yard rushing touchdown with 9:56 left in the fourth quarter to put the Wildcats up 7-0.

Facing a running clock in the fourth because of spring game rules, Gainesville didn’t let the score discourage their confidence.

A big third down scamper by Coleman down the GHS sidelines and an unsportsmanlike penalty against the Wildcats had the Hurricanes in the red zone looking to tie the ball game.

On the final offensive play of the game, the Hurricanes scored in dramatic fashion from a yard out to tie the ball game at seven.

Pollard was pleased his team didn’t give up and fought back into the ball game to come with the late score.

“It shows our character,” he said. “The way we clawed our way back and finish out the night strong and as a coach that’s all you can really ask.

With both teams finished with a below .500 record last year, the Wildcats (3-4) and Hurricanes (2-4) look to bounce back this upcoming fall season after losing in the first round of the playoffs.

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