INVERNESS — Citrus stormed out of its home stadium with a 40-0 win over Belleview in its spring football game Friday night.
The Hurricanes put three straight scoring drives together to build a 21-0 lead over the Rattlers, not letting up even after resting its starters for most of the second half.
New Citrus head coach Robert O’Brien praised the team afterward for the effort, saying the Hurricanes have the chance to control games.
“Our effort was exactly what I expected it to be, because it’s the effort that they give every single day in practice. In reality, it’s our Citrus DNA,” he said. “We believe in that full force and our kids have bought into it and they brought the intensity and the effort and it showed up on the field.”
Connor Bishop ended the night completing 10 of 14 throws for 274 yards and two touchdowns, with his favorite target — Malachi Cooks — hauling in 7 catches for 196 and two TD’s. The ’Canes amassed 617 total yards against a Rattlers team that went winless last season and is still showing signs of struggles.
The Rattlers turned the ball over three times on fumbles and once with an interception, with poor snaps or hard hits sending the ball to the turf. The Hurricanes had just one turnover, a fumble near the end of the first half that proved inconsequential.
While the Rattlers looked like a team still finding itself, the Hurricanes looked hungry to prove themselves and make a statement. They averaged 69 yards per possession in their nine drives, scoring on six of them.
Their defense swarmed the ball all night, making several tackles for losses — led by Nick Lopez’s six tackles — and a sack by Geoff Banning. They gave up just six first downs all night and held the Rattlers to 113 total yards.
Bishop’s offensive line gave him a pocket to target receivers, with the biggest play of the night coming on a 71-yard pass to Cooks with 2:31 left in the first quarter. The line also opened holes to show the potency of the running game.
Jacob Freier ran twice for 58 yards, while fellow running back Zaire Wilcox had 9 carries for 77 yards and two touchdowns. In total, the ’Canes racked up 338 rushing yards while allowing just 62 to the Rattlers, most coming on the feet of quarterback Demetrius McCants (12 carries, 54 yards).
The Hurricanes got solid play out of junior running backs Josh Howard and Drake Beyer in the second half, with the duo racking up 57 and 28 yards, respectively.
“We have a lot of potential on this team. We’ve just got to keep working every day,” O’Brien said. “The summer’s going to be very important to us.”
Bishop said the team worked hard leading up to the game.
“We had a great game plan coming in this week. Three weeks to a month, we had a practice out here, everyone’s roughing each other up ready to play another team,” he said. “Malachi did a good job tonight. Freier, all of our wide receivers did. CJ Henry; we just had a great game plan, great coaching.”