North Marion vs. Forest football

North Marion’s Chris Foster (1) scores a touchdown ahead of Forest’s Elian Godin (20) during a football game at North Marion High School in Citra, Fla. on Friday, August 26, 2022. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.

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Posted August 27, 2022 | Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette
By Allen Barney

It was a typical August evening in North Central Florida as the rain came early and often at Stan Toole Memorial Stadium in Citra, as the North Marion Colts hosted the Forest Wildcats to open the 2022 season.
After the originally schedule kickoff was pushed from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., both teams were eager to hit the gridiron. After the Wildcats went three and out in their opening drive, Colts quarterback Titus Williams, making his first start at the position in his career, hit wide receiver Elija Walton with a 50-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline to give the Colts an early 7-0 lead.
“I felt way more confident, I thought I would be nervous with the first throw, but everything had went out and after that first touchdown, it was on.,” Williams said. The senior replaced returning starter A.J. Cussins, who was not playing for an unknown reason.
After another punt from the Forest offense, North Marion had an opportunity to take a big lead early, but a bad snap led to a loose ball and Forest recovered to take possession. On the ensuing drive, Forest went three-and-out for the third drive in a row and the Colts would block the punt. Junior cornerback Jermaine ‘Rocky’ Johnson would pick up the loose ball and return it 50 yards for a touchdown.
Trailing 12-0, the Wildcats offense caught some momentum with a first down on a reception by senior wide receiver Ryan Jackson, but the drive would end in a fourth consecutive punt. The Colts were on their way to another touchdown before another bad snap led to a second fumble and Forest recovery.
The Wildcats carried the momentum on to offense and after a 15-yard reception from Ryan Jackson, quarterback Vimel Poole Jr connected with junior Matt Hart for a 20-yard touchdown pass that featured Hart’s speed and elusiveness. Hart caught the ball at the line of scrimmage and avoided multiple tackles to score the team’s first touchdown of the season.
With the lead cut to 12-7, Williams and his receivers went to work as he hit Caleb Rollerson and R’Jayvious ‘JJ’ Johnson for first downs. To finish off the drive, Williams would connect with senior wide receiver Chris Foster on a short pass and Foster did the rest, using his speed to race to the endzone.
“Without our receivers, I don’t know where I would be, they play a big part in this offense. So, I just thank them for coming out and doing their job.,” Williams said.
On the ensuing kickoff, Forest fumbled the ball on the return and the Colts came up with the recovery. Williams and the offense ended up punting after a mistake-filled six-play drive that included two negative plays and a penalty. Forest had a chance to answer after forcing the punt when Poole hit a wide-open Jackson in stride down the sideline, but Jackson could not hang on to what would have been a touchdown and the Wildcats were forced to punt.
Williams would find Walton again down the sideline for a 30-yard touchdown strike to give the Colts a 26-7 lead late in the first half. Once again, Forest had another great opportunity to score as Poole hit Jackson on a deep pass, but the receiver could not hang on due to the wet conditions. The Colts would run out the clock for the half and carried their 19-point lead into the locker room.
The Colts started the second half with a punt and Forest drove down to the Colts 17-yard line and would miss a 33-yard field goal attempt. North Marion lost its third fumble of the night after running back R’Jayvious Johnson had the ball stripped from him by the Forest defense. Both teams would trade punts for a couple drives before the Colts had another bad snap and Wildcats senior safety Bryce Bullard recovered the ball and returned it for a 30-yard touchdown to make the score 26-14.
With the score 26-14 and just over seven minutes to go, the Wildcats were driving and in Colt’s territory when Jackson put the nail in the coffin with a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown, his second trip to the endzone on the night.
“Before the play even started, I knew he was going to throw it (my way). He looked at me, snapped the ball and I knew he was going to quick draw.,” Jackson said.
The Colts defense forced a punt on the ensuing possession and junior wide receiver Kenyon Stocker returned it 62 yards for a touchdown to turn the game into a blowout at 39-14. Senior defensive back Jabrel Samuel would add one more interception the next drive and the Colts would run out the clock on their season-opening win.
Despite the multiple turnovers and inconsistent play at times, head coach Greg Carr was pleased with the performance. “We were good in spurts or moments, but I feel like we left a lot out there and we can get better from it. I feel like the team should see this win and appreciate this win but know that we left a lot out there.,” he said.
As for Forest first-year head Eoghan Cullen, the result was not what he wanted but he was proud of his team’s effort and is looking forward to next week.
“The kids didn’t quit. Last year, they would have packed it up and stopped at halftime, but these kids fought the entire game.,” he said.
Cullen put an emphasis on playing more physical from here on out in the team’s post-game huddle and echoed that statement in his postgame interview. “Focusing on physicality and violence, winning the battle in the trenches.,” he said.
A mark of a team that has potential to do damage in the playoffs is if they can score in multiple ways and the Colts did just that by scoring three non-offensive touchdowns. “That’s big, when we can get those, it is only going to make the offense better and that’s going to make us a hard team to beat because we can put points on the board in so many different ways.,” Carr said.
Both teams hit the road next week as Forest travels to Jacksonville to play First Coast and the Colts visit county rival Dunnellon.