DUNNELLON — Dunnellon looked in control in the early going of its 5A-2 regional playoff game against North Marion.
The Tigers, which defeated the Colts just two week prior to clinch the district crown and earn home field advantage, jumped out to a 9-0 edge, hitting three pass plays for 12 or more yards and running 16 plays in the first quarter.
But NMHS made the most of its favorable field position in the second quarter to rally for four straight touchdowns, eventually leading to a 48-9 win at Ned Love Field.
The Colts move on to the regional semifinals to face Vanguard at Booster Stadium on Nov. 15. The Knights defeated St. Augustine Menendez 34-0 in the quarterfinal round.
After grabbing a 12-9 lead midway through the second quarter, the Colts tacked on two more touchdowns before the end of the half with the help of a defensive takeaway on a Tiger fumble and a 60-yard punt return, which set them up for a 1-yard score that made the margin 28-9.
North Marion sophomore running back Ed Williams finished the first half with three touchdowns and 87 yards rushing on 11 carries. DHS held the Colts to 49 yards rushing total in their first meeting.
“They had a heckuva game plan and they out-coached us and outplayed us,” DHS coach Price Harris said of the Colts.
Dunnellon opened the second half with a promising drive before stalling around midfield and punting it back to North Marion. The Colts responded with a 37-yard pass from Quentin Gross to Zac Offord, setting up the first of three rushing touchdowns by Jyron Gilmore.
DHS junior Ricardo Jimenez picked off a North Marion pass later in the third on a diving scoop, but the Colts got the ball right back on an interception of their own. Gross added two long rushing scores in the fourth quarter.
The rain fell all night and the teams put the ball on the ground several times.
Emmanuel Caballero scored Dunnellon’s touchdown on a 1-yard run. It was set up by a 17-yard catch on a Trent Townsend pass by Javon Lee, who bulldozed over a Colt defender to pick up extra yards.
Junior Drew Leinenbach made a 30-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter to move DHS ahead 9-0.
The Dunnellon coaching staff after the game reminded the seniors of their impressive accomplishments, which, in four years, included four playoff appearances, a final four appearance, and 34 wins. This regular season, they exceeded all outside expectations in going 9-1 and winning the district at 4-0, despite getting moved up to 5A.
“That group of seniors have been through the fire,” Harris said. “They went through it last year when they were 3-5 and fought back and made a big run (to the state semifinals) in the playoffs. They’ve given their heart and soul to this program.”
Earlier on Friday during a pep rally at DHS, senior receiver Ja’Quavion Fraziars was presented his jersey for the Under Armour All-America Game, which will be played on Jan. 2 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
“Baby J (Fraziars) wasn’t even recruited as a freshman and sophomore and he worked his butt off and now he’s one of the top recruits in the nation,” Harris said.
“This group has worked really hard and has been special in Dunnellon for a long time. We didn’t go out the way we wanted, but I’m still proud of them. That doesn’t change.”