Colts outlast Falcons at home in 17-10 win

North Marion’s Jermaine Jackson, Jr. (9) leaps in the air and forces Menendez’ quarterback Noah Lawless (6) to fumble the ball as he hits him in the hand during a football game at North Marion High School in Sparr on Friday, Oct. 22. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]
It was set to be a tough game for the North Marion Colts football team Friday night at Stan Toole Memorial Stadium. It needed to outrun, out pass and outlast a desperate district rival in visiting Menendez.

The Falcons were 1-0 in District 5A-4 before Friday night’s game, with a 3-4 overall record. A win would have given Menendez some wiggle room in the district, with the Colts scheduled to play against fellow district rival, Clay (3-0 district, 6-2 overall), on Oct. 29 for the district title.

But the Colts shut the door on any possible wiggle room the Falcons might have hoped to gain. Instead, North Marion (now 3-0 against district opponents and 5-3 overall) had plans of its own.

After Menendez scored the game’s first touchdown on its opening possession in the first quarter, the Colts would answer with 17-straight points, outplaying and then outlasting Menendez for the 17-10 win on Oct. 22.

North Marion head coach Greg Carr was proud to see his Colts team find a way to win, despite going down early in the first quarter.

“They didn’t let one thing get them down tonight,” said Carr after the game. “They never lost their focus. They stuck together and when it came time to make plays, they made plays. They buckled down after [the Falcons] scored and made it a competitive football game after that.”

Tabias Brown would take a direct snap to the house on first and goal for the Falcons, capping an 11-play drive with the game’s first points at 8:33 of the first quarter.

Menendez placekicker Bryce Addison would add the extra point for the 7-0 Falcons lead.

Roughly five minutes later, North Marion would answer on its own nine-play drive. Quarterback AJ Cussins found wide receiver Caleb Rollerson all alone in the end zone for the first-and-goal reception touchdown at 2:02.

Colts placekicker Justin Stopford added the extra point a moment later to lock things up, 7-7, as time ran out in the first frame.

On their first possession of the second quarter, it was the Colts this time finding the end zone early—and in spectacular fashion.

Cussins tossed an 89-yard pass to the outstretched hands of wide receiver Kel’veyon Johnson, who hauled in the pass and scored the touchdown for the Colts at 9:43.

After Stopford kicked the extra point, North Marion was ahead for the first time in the game, 14-7.

The Falcons would nearly add some points of their own on their next possession, finding themselves in excellent field position after the Colts fumbled a punt return deep in their own territory. But North Marion’s defense wouldn’t give Menendez an inch.

Addison would miss a 25-yard Falcons’ field goal attempt at 4:52 of the second quarter, after the Colts’ defense stopped every Menendez attempt to add anything more substantial than three points.

With time running out in the first half, and after the Colts had just turned the ball over on downs—once again, deep in their own territory—full safety Jermaine Jackson, Jr., would jostle the ball loose from Falcons quarterback Noah Lawless as he ran towards the end zone on first and goal, giving North Marion the ball back with just over a minute remaining in the half.

With only seconds left, the Colts would march down the field to attempt a field goal of their own. But Menendez, keeping the score 14-7 going into the break, would block Stopford’s kick.

North Marion opened the second half with a 12-play drive down the field, resulting in a 21-yard Stopford field goal at 7:46, giving the Colts the 10-point lead they would carry into the fourth quarter.

Menendez would add some points to its total with a field goal at 2:10 of the fourth frame, but it would be too little, too late, as North Marion finished things with a defensive fumble recovery with 21 seconds left, putting an end to any possible late-game heroics from the Falcons.

North Marion would drain the clock and earn the win, 17-10.

Carr and his Colts now turn their focus to Clay, a formidable district opponent, who will be traveling to Stan Toole Memorial Field on Oct. 29 for the 5A-4 District Championship game.

“They’re a really good football team,” said Carr of next week’s opponent. “Each week is about building up momentum to face a team like Clay. We’re going to have to put an even better game together if we want to win.”

The winner of next Friday’s game not only earns the accolades of being district champion; it also locks up a state playoff spot.

“That’s been our goal and what we’ve locked in and dedicated ourselves to doing all year long,” added Carr. “We know now that we just got to come out and do it.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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