DUNNELLLON — Unlike a year ago, Crystal River against Dunnellon didn’t come down to the wire.
The Tigers made sure of that, bolting out to a 12-0 first-quarter lead thanks to a 45-yard touchdown reception from A.J. Hamilton and a rushing score from Emmanuel "Manny" Caballero as Dunnellon avenged a loss a year ago to the Pirates, which snapped 16-game winning streak in the rivalry, as it cruised to a resounding 37-0 victory on Saturday at Ned Love Field at Richard Kennedy Stadium.
"We started pretty fast, we were able to drive it and score," said Dunnellon coach Price Harris, whose team had two days to prepare for the Pirates (1-2) due to the Marion County Public School District being shut down Tuesday and Wednesday due to Hurricane Dorian. "We still missed some opportunities early; we could have put the game away earlier."
The Tigers were limited to four practices in the past two practices.
"Overall, our guys came out ready to play and I’m proud of them," said Harris, whose team improved to 3-0 overall. "For them to come out and execute at a level in which they’re doing, I’m very proud of them. Of course, I feel like we could always be better. I’m very pleased with where we’re pressing as an offense. Overall, our guys really played hard. And they worked diligently and continued to fight all the way through the game."
Dunnellon tacked on a pair of late second-quarter scores, including a 52-yard touchdown reception by Jay Fraziers from quarterback Trent Townsend with less than four minutes remaining in the half. With under a minute remaining in the first half, Javon Lee punched in a score from a 1 yard out. Caballero scored both 2-point conversions, the first on a run and the second on a pass from Lee, which pushed the Tigers to a 28-9 lead before halftime.
"I was really disappointed in the first half, our body language and some of those non-verbal kind of indicators," said Crystal River coach Cliff Lohrey, whose team was coming off a 46-0 shelling of Lecanto the previous week. "I thought in the second half we did a better job of fighting, playing with some pride.
"Obviously, we’re no different than anyone else, we’re trying our best to win. That fact that we were able to correct some of those things in the second half in terms of growth and maturity, we’re going to build on that."
The Pirates, who made defensive adjustments in the second half, limited Dunnellon to one touchdown, a 10-yard Fraziers’ score with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Tigers’ other score came on linebacker Sam Wryals’ sack of Pirate quarterback Ethan McDaniel that came minutes before Fraziers’ second touchdown of the game, which pushed Dunnellon’s lead to 37-0, implementing a running clock for the remainder of the contest.
"I really thought Dunnellon controlled the game early," said Lohrey, whose team was shut out for the second time in three weeks. "We were never really able to establish any kind of rhythm offensively. Credit goes to Dunnellon, Coach Harris had them ready."
Crystal River plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Hernando in a district tilt.
"We wake up on Monday, nothing changes and it’s Week 4 and it’s district play," Lohrey said. "Our goal is to go 1-0 every week; whether things go our way on the previous Friday or whether they go against like they did tonight, we wake up Monday, the new goal is to go 1-0."
Dunnellon plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Vanguard in a District 5A-6 tilt.