martynowski

Lecanto’s Jordan Martynowski (3) eludes the flag pull attempt of Citrus defender Emma Seal as she scores a touchdown during the first half of Tuesday’s flag football game at Lecanto High School. The Panthers won 41-0.

LECANTO — The Lecanto flag football team recorded its seventh shutout of the season Tuesday night at home, with a 41-0 victory over county rival Citrus.

The Panthers — ranked third in Class 1A by MaxPreps.com and fifth by FloridaHSfootball.com — were explosive in all three phases to improve to 10-1 on the season. The Hurricanes — a much more inexperienced squad that has had several games canceled or postponed this spring — fell to 0-4.

Lecanto is 6-0 at home with four shutouts.

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The Lecanto defense — which has allowed just 33 points in 11 games — was outstanding as usual.

“The defense works really hard. When you have good flag pullers like Mackenzie (Kusnierz) at the point, Grace (Taylor) in the middle, Angel (Malafronte) and Mikayla (Richardson) on both ends, it’s a luxury to have,” Lecanto head coach Rick Keeran said.

Kusnierz was her usual disruptive self as the center rusher, with at least six flag pulls — including one diving grab — a sack and pass batted down.

“My main priority is to watch the quarterback’s eyes. I try to focus on watching their plays and remember what they’re calling out, so I can remember their plays,” the junior said. “Then I can tell my teammates what they’re going to do, which helps all of us pursue and execute.”

Malafronte and Taylor each had five flag pulls and Richardson added four.

The Citrus defense also had bright spots, including a stop on fourth and goal and not giving up many big plays to the high-powered Lecanto offense.

“That’s our goal against a team like this. Force them to make 8, 9, 10 plays in a row and score on long drives,” Citrus head coach Eric Tremante said. “Sometimes that frustrates a team like this, because they want to score fast. We just gave up a short field too many times and you can’t do that against a team like Lecanto.”

It only took the Panthers a little over three minutes to score on their first drive, capped off by a Jordan Martynowski quarterback scramble for a touchdown run, for a 6-0 lead.

The Citrus defense rose to the occasion on the next Panther drive and stopped Lecanto after a Matynowski punt return set up the Panthers first and goal. But on the first offensive snap for the Hurricanes after the stop, a pitch was fumbled in the end zone for a safety and 8-0 Lecanto lead.

Martynowki scored on a long touchdown run on fourth down early in the second quarter to make it 14-0 and it was 20-0 at the half after Abby Christensen hauled in a touchdown pass from Trinity Keeran on a nice leaping grab.

The speedy Cynthia Homs added a pair of nice touchdown runs and a two-point conversion run in the third quarter to make it 34-0 Panthers. A short touchdown pass from Keeran to Kellie Tallman and a Keeran pass to Christensen for the conversion was the final score of the evening.

“When you have athletes like Cynthia, Jordan, Trinity and Nicole Brake, we can try different things on offense and move some parts around,” coach Keeran said.

Citrus put together a solid drive near the end of the game, but the shutout was preserved on an interception by Taylor with two minutes left on the clock.

“We strung together a couple good drives, we just don’t know how to finish yet. We need to teach them how to finish,” Tremante said. “Our goal is just to get better and compete with ourselves first. We improved. We didn’t look amazing, but we didn’t look terrible either.”

Mackenzie Scordato and Jonaya Moeller each had four flag pulls for the Hurricane defense.

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Contact Chronicle Sports Editor Matt Pfiffner at 352-564-2989 or mpfiffner@chronicleonline.com.

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