Colts run out of steam late in 18-13 preseason loss 

North Marion’s Kelveyon Johnson (81) powers for extra yardage after catching a pass in front of Gainesville’s Kenneth Nelson (21) and Ryan Nolan (5) during a preseason game at North Marion High School in Sparr, Fla. on Friday, August 20, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

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Posted August 21, 2021 | By James Blevins,

North Marion’s Kelveyon Johnson (81) powers for extra yardage after catching a pass in front of Gainesville’s Kenneth Nelson (21) and Ryan Nolan (5) during a preseason game at North Marion High School in Sparr on Friday. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

SPARR—Despite having a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter, the North Marion Colts high school football team were unable to convert on four straight shots at the end zone as time ran out in regulation, ultimately losing to the visiting Gainesville Hurricanes, 18-13, in preseason action Friday night at Stan Toole Memorial Stadium.

In the game’s final minute, North Marion was first-and-10 at the Gainesville 30-yard line. Sophomore quarterback A.J. Cussins made several valiant efforts to target a Colt in the end zone, but the Hurricanes’ secondary prevented every Colt receiver from coming down with a potential game-winning catch. 

Turning over on downs, the ‘Canes assumed the victory formation and drained out the rest of the clock, shutting firmly out any possibility of a Colts comeback.

Despite the loss, North Marion Head Coach Gregory Carr saw a lot of things out on the field on Friday that bodes well for his team coming into the 2021-22 season.

“I never doubt the heart of these guys,” said Carr of his players. “I know that’s there. They just kept fighting, despite shooting themselves in the foot at times. They just kept fighting and going after it.”

North Marion’s Tommy Harward (18) celebrates his interception on Gainesville with Jeriahmiah Mack (5) during a preseason game on Friday [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

Punting away its first two possessions, North Marion would end the first quarter on a Cussins sack in its own end zone, gifting Gainesville a two-point safety before the whistle blew and the field was flipped, giving the ‘Canes the 2-0 lead after the first 12 minutes.

In the second quarter, Gainesville would strike early, hitting a 20-yard field goal to add to its lead, 5-0, with 10 minutes remaining in the half. 

The ‘Canes would score again five minutes later after gaining possession of the ball from a Cussins interception. 

Quarterback Shooby Coleman would convert that costly Cussins turnover into more points by connecting with wide receiver Arnold Strachen for a 60-yard touchdown pass, extending Gainesville’s advantage to 11-0 with 5:39 remaining in the first half. 

North Marion special teams would block the ensuing P.A.T. to keep the score within reach.

Before the end of the half, after the North Marion defense recovered a Gainesville fumble, Colts’ running back Bravis Cave would finally find the end zone for North Marion, running in a first-and-goal rush touchdown, cutting into the ‘Canes’ lead, 11-7, after kicking the extra point.

At 5:56 in the third quarter, Gainesville would answer. Coleman’s pass to Jaleighk Patterson would lead to another 60-yard touchdown run, giving the ‘Canes the 18-7 advantage after adding the P.A.T. 

North Marion’s Kimare Lane (6) finds some open running room against Gainesville’s Brandon Bowden (3) and Ahman Covington (2) during a preseason game. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

But North Marion would answer back almost as quickly. Cussins hit Kelveyon Johnson in stride for a 70-yard touchdown pass with 1:39 left on the clock, drawing the Colts within five points of the ‘Canes after Cussins failed to connect with Caleb Rollerson for the two-point conversion.

The very next play, Gainesville would fumble the ball and Colt Andrew Zock would recover it deep in ‘Canes territory with 1:13 left, leading to North Marion’s last-ditch effort late in the fourth to pull off the comeback win—but ultimately failing and finishing the game at its final tally, 18-13. 

North Marion had some early struggles with penalties, earning as many as seven in the game, most coming in the first half.

Carr expects that his team will clean those up as the season progresses.

“You want to see more crispness,” admitted Carr of his team’s overall play in their first game back on the field.

“You want to see more disciplined football. And we lacked that at times. It came back to bite us a bit I think earlier in the game. But we go better as we went,” he said.

“There’s a lot to improve on,” he quickly added, “but a lot to be happy about too.”

North Marion plays Forest next on Aug. 27 on the road to open its regular season. 

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