INVERNESS — Hurricane Dorian didn’t blow through Citrus County, but the Citrus Hurricanes sure did pound their opponent on Friday night.
By the time the ’Canes ran their 12th offensive play, a 52-yard touchdown pass from Connor Bishop to Malachi Cooks, they had built a 40-point lead, with 10:21 still to play in the first half.
It was that kind of game for the hosts at the Citrus Bowl, facing Class 3A Trinity Prep out of Winter Park, as the ’Canes improved to 3-0 on the season with a 68-20 trouncing.
“The kids bought in to what we’re doing. They continue to buy in every week,” said Citrus head coach Robert O’Brien, enjoying a banner start to his first season at the helm. “We had a phenomenal week of practice. We had some adversity with the weather and the times of our practices. We had to go in the morning a couple of days.
“But the kids responded. They faced the adversity positively and we had a great week of practice. At the end of the day, that’s why we had a great game, is because of a great week of practice.”
This one was definitely over early. The ’Canes forced the Saints (1-2) to go three-and-out on the game-opening drive, then needed five plays to go
53 yards, with Cooks taking a Bishop pass 23 yards to the house at the 8:52 mark of the first quarter.
That represented a long drive for Citrus. Zaire Wilcox recovered a fumble to end Trinity Prep’s ensuing possession, then three plays later Cooks went up and hauled in 17-yard toss from Bishop in the left corner of the end zone.
“I just had to get my head straight. The past couple of weeks wasn’t my best, so I just had to make up for it this week,” said Cooks, who had four catches for 99 yards and three touchdown receptions. “The field, it was just open. And then they just handed me the ball pretty much, soon as the game started.”
Wilcox scored on a pick-6 to make it 20-0 with 5:43 to go in the first, then Ramius Diaz blocked and recovered a punt on the Saints 7-yard line, setting up a quick 7-yard touchdown run by Wilcox.
The first play of the next drive was another interception returned for a score, this time by Mikey Gatto, and the lead swelled to 33-0 — with 4:38 still left in the opening quarter.
A 19-yard touchdown pass from Luke Cohn to Max Holler got Trinity Prep on the board with 10.8 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Citrus responded with a Wilcox 10-yard run to the end zone, and the third Cooks touchdown catch, making it 47-7.
T.J. Weems had an 8-yard touchdown run at 2:33 in the second quarter. Wilcox went 63 yards down the right sideline with 16.1 seconds to go, creating a 61-7 advantage at halftime.
That would be the final carry for Wilcox, who only ran five times but accumulated 120 yards and found the end zone four times.
“I feel pretty good about how I played, and my team helped me with that, helped me get those yards and those touchdowns,” Wilcox said. “And I appreciate my O-line with the help. I think we played well.
“I was seeing holes, big holes that were opening up while my O-line was blocking for me. I just like the way they block, and they got my back and I’ve got theirs.”
With a running clock in the second half, nearly all of the regulars sat down. Corvin Henry added a 6-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
“We talked about, we feel like we can do this consistently. Maybe it’s not going to look like 68 points, and that’s OK,” O’Brien said. “But we limited our penalties today, we really limited our turnovers, and we did a good job sustaining drives and putting plays together that we needed to make.
“When our guys are healthy and they are bought in and understand that it’s a team thing and it can’t be ‘me’ every time getting the ball, they see how many good athletes we have, and they get excited not just for them to score but for their teammates to score. And that’s when it happens.”
The ’Canes will now roll into district play starting next Friday at winless Weeki Wachee.
“Honestly we just try to go 1-0 every week,” O’Brien said. “Momentum is a fickle thing. Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it’s up and sometimes it’s down. For us, it’s a focus on the week at hand and go 1-0 that week, and get better every single week.”