SPARR — Heading into Friday’s Class 5A, Region 2 quarterfinal against St. Augustine Menendez, the North Marion Colts knew they needed to do one thing.
Stop the run, because its all Menendez really has.
After a first half where Falcons running back Tye Edwards ran for 113 yards, it appeared as if Menendez was finding several holes in the Colts’ defense.
But in the end it was the Colts who took a 20-14 halftime lead and never looked back as North Marion advances to the regional semifinals after a 27-22 win.
With the win, the Colts will now travel to Zephyrhills (11-0), which routed Crystal River (8-3) 35-0, for next Friday’s Class 5A, Region 2 semifinal.
“We don’t really know much about (Zephyrhills) except that they are undefeated,” North Marion head coach Willie Offord said.
Menendez started off hot but couldn't seem to crack the North Marion Colts’ defense in the second half as the Falcons saw their season end at 8-3.
Tye Edwards finished with 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries for the Falcons. Menendez struck first and made it 7-0 on a 74-yard run by Edwards and led 14-13 after a five-yard TD run by the highly-touted recruit who has received offers from Alabama, Georgia and many others.
North Marion (9-2) led 20-14 at halftime, a lead the Colts would not relinquish.
Tyler Stopford was good by plenty on field goals of 42 and 30 yards for the Colts’ first six points.
Zac Offord scored North Marion’s first touchdown on a 30-yard run on a sweep play off the left side. Offord’s run made the score 14-13 Falcons with six minutes to go in the first half.
Towards the end of the first half, the NMHS defense was staring at a we-must-stop-them-here type possession in which the Falcons had a chance to go up by a TD before the half. Colts safety Keniuel Gates made the play of the night by stripping the ball from Edwards and running it back for a 45-yard touchdown with less than 30 seconds remaining in the half. The Colts led 20-14, and for a lack of a better cliche, they had the momentum.
“That strip by Keniuel, that is something we work on every day in practice,” Offord said. "It was a huge play, and yeah it was a boost for us. But plays like that, every football team drills the heck out of those plays and Keniuel, man, he really stepped up."
Dre Council finished with 23 yards on four carries including a three-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Joleeco Gaskin II had 122 yards on 21 carries for the Colts. The senior running back also had a 38-yard reception from quarterback Corey Wilsher on a shovel pass.
Jyron Gilmore caught three passes for 22 yards, while Wilsher finished the contest 8-for-14 for 107 yards.
Gilmore also had five carries for 45 yards.
“It was working for us to go to Jyron on the outside sweeps because they had our inside lanes pretty clogged up … the touchdown by Zac was one of those sweeps,” Offord said.
Kenny Logan had a late touchdown in the fourth quarter for the Falcons but the Colts managed a first down in their next possession and ran out the clock.
"Defensively, I cannot say enough about this group," Offord said. "Nate (Ion), (Keniuel) Gates, Luke Rose, Jedyn Nichols, Tre Davis at linebacker, the whole defense, they have been huge for us all year and now they gave us a chance to get back at it next week."