INVERNESS — Ijyana Edwards found Haylee Woodhouse for what seemed like a standard opening play of the game on Thursday night.
But Woodhouse weaved her way through the Citrus defense, all the while her flags remained attached to the belt around her waist, as she raced 60 yards to the end zone. Just like that visiting Crystal River was off and running, en route to a 35-0 victory at the Citrus Bowl.
It was the first win of the season for the Pirates (1-2), and what kind of tone did that quick strike set for the rest of the contest?
“A great one,” Edwards said. “That we’re going to win the game and just keeps everybody’s morale up.”
There was plenty more highlights for Edwards and her receivers throughout the initial two quarters.
The Hurricanes (0-2) turned the ball over on downs and the Pirates took advantage of favorable field position, Edwards passing to Woodhouse again, then finding Phoebe Shaw in the end zone for another touchdown. Jordan Williams caught the extra-point pass from Edwards to make it 13-0.
On Crystal River’s next possession, Edwards completed three straight passes, to Shaw, Woodhouse and finally Xenia Bellamy for a score. Damonica Richburgh caught the extra point to make it 20-0 early in the second quarter.
Marleigh Miller pulled a flag for a fourth-down sack on the ensuing drive by Citrus, then Edwards passed to Bellamy for a first down, Shaw for a touchdown and Lexi Seeders for an extra point to push the lead to 27-0.
Dorothy Edwards recorded an interception, and Ijyana Edwards connected for her fifth touchdown pass, another one to Bellamy. This time the Pirates went for two and Ijyana Edwards found Damonica Richburgh.
“My goal was to get everybody a touchdown this game,” Ijyana Edwards said. “So I wanted to make sure everybody was getting out into the end zone. So I was just going to go fast and make a difference.”
Angelina Jenkins followed with an interception on the next play, but finally a Crystal River possession ended without a touchdown due to time expiring in the half. Nevertheless that first-half performance would be all the Pirates needed to secure their first victory of 2021.
“It was huge for our team. We’re really starting to come together, so it feels good,” Crystal River head coach Tony Mason said. “We were finding our open receivers. Receivers were running their routes and we were finding them.
“It (scoring on the first play) definitely gives us some confidence. Moving forward it makes everybody feels more confident in their plays, makes us more confident in the changes we’ve made. It takes a little pressure off everybody.”
The level of play improved for the ’Canes in the second half, starting with an interception by Jordan Shelby. Though they weren’t able to break the shutout, they did keep the Pirates off the scoreboard on two second-half possessions.
Zoey Word led the team with two receptions and Mackenzie Scordato totaled three flag pulls.
“Struggled in the first half to get up to game speed, and then second half we played much better,” Citrus head coach Eric Tremante said. “We just told them, ‘There’s no pressure now. Just get out of your heads and play for each other, because that’s all that matters. Don’t worry about the score, don’t worry about the other team. Just do your job play for each other,’ and I think you saw that in the second half.
“We’ve got a couple games. We see where we’re weak at, we see where we’re strong at and we build on our strengths and try to eliminate the weaknesses as much as we can. Try to run the ball more. Try to get some shorter passes in and just keep on working, just get better.”
Counting extra points, six different players had a reception for the Pirates. Woodhouse had six to lead the way, while Shaw and Bellamy had two apiece. Jenkins recorded a team high of six flag pulls and Riley Solomon had an interception on the final play of the game.
“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, just keep getting better at what we are doing,” Mason said. “We made some changes throughout the past week and we’re going to keep making small changes until we get where we need to be.”