DUNNELLON — Two teams that have endured stacked early season schedules battled it out in a game played closer than the final score would indicate Friday night.
Host Dunnellon pulled away from Crystal River late to earn its first victory in the District 5A-5 opener for both squads, 34-0.
The Pirates fell to 1-3, but all three losses are to perennial playoff participants.
“We’re a good football team. That score is not indicative of the game that was played on this field tonight,” Crystal River head coach Cliff Lohrey said. “Dunnellon, outstanding program. We’re a good football team. I know the score doesn’t indicate that, but we’ve got a chance to do some really good things this year.
“… I don’t want anybody to think that I don’t want to be 4-0. We’d rather be 4-0, we’d rather be 3-1, we’d rather be 2-2. This schedule has prepared us going forward. There’s no reason we can’t step on a field with anyone we play and feel confident in our ability to compete, to be successful and to get some wins under our belt.”
The game we delayed an hour due to lightning in the area. The first half was tightly contested and nearly scoreless. Dunnellon (1-2, 1-0 5A-5) finally got on the board when L.J. Fitzpatrick ran in a 1-yard touchdown with 25.3 seconds remaining before the intermission.
Fitzpatrick also found Jaden Dyer in the end zone for the 2-point conversion, making it 8-0.
Quarterback Trent Townsend scored on a 1-yard sneak midway through the third quarter. Then the Tigers blew it open in the fourth. Brody Luckey broke several tackles on a 16-yard touchdown run just four plays into the final quarter.
An interception by Gavyn Leinenbach led to a 15-yard touchdown pass from Townsend to Maxwell Valcius. Kendy Harilus tacked on a 52-yard dash to pay dirt, as Dunnellon scored on its last five possessions after an interception by the Pirates’ Zach Van Fleet in the second quarter, including on all four drives in the second half.
“It started a little slow, missed some opportunities early. But Crystal River, don’t take that away from them. They play very, very hard,” Dunnellon head coach Price Harris said. “It was a good game. Both teams fought and battled. We’ve got to clean up some stuff.
“… A win is a win. We will take a win any way we can get a win. A ‘W’ is always good and we needed a ‘W.’ So that was huge for us. Getting a district win, starting off 1-0 in the district is always a positive. Especially with Crystal River; Crystal River is going to give a lot people problems in our district.”