DUNNELLON -- Just two weeks ago, the North Marion Colts (9-2) traveled to 5A-District 6 rival Dunnellon (9-2) falling 20-14 as the Tigers won the district title outright.
On Friday night, it was a different story.
Fighting to keep their postseason alive in the Region 2-5A quarterfinals, the Colts stepped onto Ned Love Field with a vengeance, initially going down 9-0, but storming back to score 48 unanswered points and crush the Tigers, 48-9.
"We were more focused," said North Marion coach Willie Offord. "I think the last game, Dunnellon was prepared and ready to play us and we got outcoached and outplayed in that game. This week, our kids came out focused and ready to compete."
"We played together [tonight]. In a playoff atmosphere, we fought adversity early in the game. We were losing and our kids battled back and responded. They weren’t fazed."
Despite the implication of revenge that this game seemed to hold, many of the Colts’ players were quick to squash that sentiment.
"The game plan was: Fix. Us," said North Marion’s Jyron "Papa" Gilmore. "It was never them, it was always us. Fixing our mistakes and capitalize and execute on our game."
"It’s good to get that sour taste out of our mouth but we’re just advancing to next week," Colts’ quarterback Quintin Gross added. "One and O. That’s all it is until we get there. 1-0."
The Tigers actually got out to an early lead in this game.
After North Marion fumbled a snap on the opening drive, Dunnellon capitalized, finishing an 11-play drive from the North Marion 38 to score on an Emmanuel Cabellero 1-yard touchdown.
The Tigers’ next possession also started on a short field from the Colts’ 39, this time ending in a field goal from Drew Leinenbach to go up 9-0 to start the second quarter.
That was it for the Tigers’ scoring on the night, however, as the Colts went on to score the next 48 points unanswered.
Ed Williams picked up right where he left off last week, running over Tiger defenders on his way to three first-half touchdowns and nearly 100 yards on the ground.
His third score came with just five seconds left to play in the half after Zac "Buc" Offord returned a Dunnellon punt 69 yards to the Tiger 1, setting up Williams for the easy score.
The only other first-half Colts’ touchdown belonged to Brenden Shipp, who snagged Gross’s pass in the endzone for a 21-yard score.
North Marion kept up the dominance in the second half, shutting out the Tigers and adding three more touchdowns of their own.
The opening score of the second half was a thing of beauty.
Gross handed the ball off to Gilmore who passed it deep to Offord for a 37-yard reception. From there, Offord took the handoff around the right-hand side and in for an 11-yard score.
The next two belonged to Gilmore.
His first came on a jet sweep that he took down the right-hand sideline, diving for the pylon and the score. On his second, he took the handoff straight up the middle for a 50+ yard score to seal the deal and put his team up 48-9.
As for the Tigers, they end their season 9-2 with a district title to their name.
"Coach Offord did a great job of making adjustments and we didn’t have a whole lot of answers for it," said Dunnellon coach Price Harris. "They played harder than us and beat us fair and square. He had a good game plan and got after us."
"This is a special group. Nobody thought that they could win the district. Nobody thought we could compete in 5A and we did that. We did some really good things this year and I’m proud of them."
Next week, the North Marion Colts get yet another shot at revenge, this time at 5A-District 6 rival Vanguard in the regional semifinals. But once again, coach Offord was quick to downplay that idea.
"Yeah, people say revenge game… We lost those two games because we didn’t play well enough to win, so I don’t think it’s revenge."
The Knights blanked their quarterfinal foe on Friday, defeating Menendez 34-0 on the road.
NMHS will travel to Vanguard next Friday for the Region 2-5A semifinals where it’ll look to avenge an 18-14 loss to the Knights back in Week 5, and advance to the regional finals.