Wildcats roll past Colts in season opener

Poole's 3 touchdowns lead Forest over North Marion

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Posted August 25, 2023 | By Mark Pinson/Special to the Ocala Gazette
Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

Forest quarterback VJ Poole ran for two touchdowns and threw for another to lead the Wildcats to a 37-6 win over North Marion in the season opener for both teams on Friday night at Mikey Kelly Stadium.

Forest used a balanced offense to move the ball efficiently, and the Wildcats defense forced five turnovers in the dominating win over the Colts.

“It’s always good to start off with a win especially against a team like North Marion,” said second-year Forest coach Eoghan Cullen. “The kids are excited, they worked hard all offseason and they earned the win tonight. Our defense played well, forced turnovers and gave us excellent field position. We have a lot to clean up, we had lots of dumb penalties and missed opportunities. We’ll watch the film and get after it next week.”

North Marion couldn’t overcome a number of dropped passes and a lack of execution in all phases of the game in the loss to Forest.

“We have to understand the only way to win is to play the game the right way,” said Colts coach Greg Carr. “We came out and beat ourselves at times with mistakes and mishaps and good teams take advantage of those mistakes.

Forest did that and hats off to them. You can’t expect to win when you have opportunities and don’t make the best of them. This game will punish you for your mistakes and that’s what happened tonight.”

Forest took the opening kick and marched smartly down the field as Poole completed several short passes and used his legs and quickness to move the chains. Poole hit senior wide receiver Israel Evans for a 22-yard gain to the North Marion 15, and the senior signal-caller capped the 17-play, 95-yard drive with a 5-yard scoring scamper.

The extra point by senior Collin Scroggie was good to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead midway through the first period.

North Marion’s opening drive ended with sophomore quarterback Issac Smith’s pass being intercepted at the Colts’ 46.

Forest failed to take advantage of the excellent field position as the North Marion defense forced an incomplete pass on fourth down to end the threat.

The Colts went nowhere and were forced to punt. A dropped snap and a hurried kick gave the Wildcats the ball on the North Marion 36-yard line.

Forest moved the ball inside the North Marion 10-yard line, but the Wildcats were forced to settle for a 35-yard field goal by Scroggie to take a 10-0 lead with 6:45 remaining in the second quarter.

The game got a little sloppy in the third period with both teams committing a litany of penalties and miscues which prevented any scoring.

North Marion opened the fourth quarter with Smith getting sacked and fumbling the ball which was recovered by Forest senior defensive tackle Timarius Mickens at the Wildcats’ 42.

Poole found Evans open down the left sideline for a 44-yard completion. The elusive quarterback evaded a rush to score on a 5-yard run. The extra point gave the Wildcats a 17-0 lead with 8:49 left in the game.

Another North Marion turnover gave Forest the ball on the Colts 26. The Class 4S Wildcats scored in one play as Poole found senior wide receiver Matt Hart open behind the North Marion secondary for an easy touchdown. Poole completed 16 of 32 passes for 192 yards with one touchdown and an interception. The point after was no good but the Wildcats held a commanding 23-0 lead.

North Marion refused to quit and put together a nine-play, 65-yard drive with Smith hitting King James over the middle for a 36-yard touchdown pass. Smith finished 8 for 26 passing for 96 yards with one score and a pair of interceptions. The 2-point pass attempt was incomplete, and the Class 2S Colts trailed 23-6 with 4:35 left to play.

Forest kept the pressure on and tacked on two more touchdowns, as junior running back Amadrick Hope bulled his way into the end zone from 5 yards out and sophomore running back Jordan Strickland found the end zone from 9 yards away for the final score.

“This kind of win is a huge confidence builder for us heading into next week’s game against Jacksonville First Coast,” coach Cullen said. “That’s not an easy place to play, not an easy place to win. Coach Marty Smith runs a great program up there and we’re looking forward to the competition.”

North Marion will look to break into the win column in Friday night’s home game against Dunnellon.

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