Forest fends off district rival Leon 26-16 on homecoming night

A flag flies in negating what would have been another Forest touchdown as Forest’s Jamarrien Burt (1) runs the ball into the end zone against Leon during a football game at Forest High School in Ocala, Fla. on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

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Posted October 16, 2021 | By James Blevins

Forest’s Jamarrien Burt (1) runs the ball into the end zone against Leon during a football game at Forest High School in Ocala on Friday, Oct. 15. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

The Forest Wildcats successfully held off the Leon Lions on homecoming night at Mikey Kelly Stadium, winning the prep football game 26-16 on Friday.

The win is the second in a row for the Wildcats—after defeating Leesburg on Oct. 8—bringing their regular season record to 3-4 overall. The Lions drop to 1-5.

Forest is now 1-1 in District 7A-2, having previously lost to Chiles on Oct. 1. Sharing the same district, Leon (0-2) has yet to win a district game in 2021.

Head coach Robin Williams was jubilant after the game with the effort his Forest team put out on the field.

“We made some mistakes,” he admitted, “but overall we played really well. Especially on defense.”

After a scoreless first quarter, the Wildcats finally found the end zone seven minutes into the second frame.

Quarterback Steve Curry (14-for-22 in the air with one interception) pounded the ball through the Lion defensive line on third and goal, scoring on the keeper play at 5:57.

Three minutes later, the Wildcats would score again on their next possession—another quarterback keeper.

Curry carried the ball from roughly the 40-yard line for the rush touchdown at 1:43 of the second quarter.

Not done yet, on Forest’s next possession, with less than 10 seconds on the clock, Curry would hit Isaiah Troop in stride for a 60-yard touchdown pass as time ran out on the half.

Missing the extra point, Forest still held a commanding lead of 20-0 at the break.

The first half’s success had cost the Wildcats some key players, according to Williams. Due to several injuries, Forest had to juggle its lineups coming into the second half.

“We kind of hobbled into halftime,” said Williams. “Two or three different kids with ice on different parts of their bodies: we just had a couple things go all wrong right at the end of the second quarter. So, we had to rearrange a few things.”

As Forest adjusted, Leon exploded offensively.

It took the Lions just short of seven minutes of the third quarter to cut Forest’s lead in half.

Leon’s quarterback Ikezha Freeman (9-for-26, one interception) passed to teammate Centel Deshazier for the fourth-and-goal touchdown at 7:04 of the third quarter, making it 20-7 after the extra point.

On the first play of Forest’s next possession, Curry would throw an interception to Leon’s Kamari Jones, which the Lions would immediately turn into more points.

Placekicker Jack Brooks kicked a 20-yard field goal to make it 20-10 at 5:02.

But Forest made its adjustments and answered Leon’s quick 10 points with another six of its own on the following possession.

Forest’s Jamarrien Burt would go 80 yards with a Curry handoff to the house. After missing another extra point, the Wildcats now led 26-10 with 3:42 left in the third quarter.

Leon would score another touchdown at 3:08 of the fourth quarter—a Freeman 30-yard rush play—but fail to convert on the two-point conversion, leaving the score 26-16 as time ran out on the game.

Williams said afterwards that Burt’s touchdown might have been the game-changing play for the Wildcats Friday night, helping to put Forest’s lead out of reach.

“It changed the momentum of our game that’s for sure,” said Williams of Burt’s touchdown. “Because [Leon] had all the momentum coming off those two scores. But we were able to adjust and show some guts and put the fire out. At this point in the year, you love to see that.”

Next up for Forest is a road game against non-district opponent Hawthorne on Oct. 22. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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