Crusaders cruise past Saints for first win

Ocala Christian blanks St. John Lutheran in 8-man football

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Posted September 1, 2023 | By Mark Pinson/Special to the Ocala Gazette
Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

Ocala Christian earned its first win of the season in impressive fashion on Friday night, as sophomore running back Josh Davis scored six touchdowns to lead the Crusaders to a 74-0 win over Saint John Lutheran.

Ocala Christian, which scored touchdowns on all seven of its first-half possessions in building a commanding 52-0 halftime lead over the Saints, improved to 1-2 on the season.

“It was a good win,” said Crusaders coach Jim Pierce. “We blocked and tackled well and got good play from all of our subs which is always a blessing. We lost last week to Shorecrest by a score of 63-14, but we learned from that game and played much better tonight. We still have room for plenty of improvement.”

The loss dropped St. John Lutheran to 0-3 overall.

There are no kickoffs in 8-man football, so Ocala Christian took possession of the ball at its 25-yard line to begin the game.

Ocala Christian quarterback Jose Gomez ran for four yards before Davis ripped off a 71-yard scoring run down the right sideline. Senior running back Skyler Forella powered his way into the end zone from two yards out for the 2-point conversion to give the Crusaders an 8-0 lead with less than a minute gone in the game.

St. John took over at its 25 and a couple of running plays gained a few yards before an incomplete pass by quarterback Austin Cate forced the Saints to punt.

Ocala Christian took over at its 41 and marched 59 yards in five plays with Davis finding the end zone on a 9-yard scoring scamper. Forella ran for the 2-point conversion to make it 16-0 midway through the first quarter.

St. John suffered a key loss on its next possession when Cate was injured while being tackled by a host of Crusaders and did not return to the game.

The Ocala Christian defense, which forced a pair of St. John turnovers and had several tackles for loss, stopped the Saints and forced another punt.

Forella broke several tackles on his way to a 72-yard touchdown run. A 2-point pass was no good and the Crusaders led 22-0.

St. John failed to pick up a first down and Ocala Christian found the end zone again as Gomez broke loose on a 50-yard scoring run to make it 28-0.

St. John put together a solid drive with Trace Dyess, Noah Baeder and Colton Gleason picking up solid yards on the ground with hard running. The drive stalled and the Saints punted the ball.

The Crusaders quick-strike offense struck again as junior quarterback Conrad Bloom connected with the fleet-footed Davis on a 65-yard touchdown pass. The 2-point run by Gomez made it 36-0 with 8:36 remaining in the second period.

The Ocala Christian defense pounced on a St. John fumble at the Saints’ 35. After a 22-yard scramble by Bloom, Davis scored on a 13-yard sweep to the right side. Brandon Norman ran for the 2-point conversion to make it 44-0.

St. John failed to pick up a first down and Ocala Christian tacked on a score as Gomez hit Davis with a 37-yard scoring pass for a 52-0 lead at the half.

A running clock was used in the second half. The Crusaders tallied a touchdown in the third quarter and a final one in the fourth quarter as Davis scored on a 52-yard run for the final score. Davis rushed five times for 151 yards and four touchdowns, and the talented Crusader sophomore had two receptions for 102 yards and two scores.

“The line did a great job of blocking and we played with a lot of effort and determination,” Davis said. “We had a tough pair of losses to open the season, but we came out, played hard and did what we were supposed to do and got the win.”

Ocala Christian is back on the gridiron on Saturday, Sept. 9 with an away game against Gainesville Christian.

St. John Lutheran is back in action on Thursday with a home game against City of Life Christian Academy out of Kissimmee.

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