BROOKSVILLE – Nature Coast Technical’s 11th varsity football team completed its final dress rehearsal unveiling some new weapons under first-year skipper Justin Worden Friday night at Shark Tank Stadium in a 23-6 victory over Citrus.
In last year’s fall classic, Citrus demolished the Sharks at the Citrus Bowl, 47-7. This time, it appeared like déjà vu after one series.
First-year mentor Justin Taylor’s crew, buoyed by a 26-yard kickoff returned by Anthony Goss, set up shop at midfield.
In six snaps, the Hurricanes tore through the NCT defense for 50 yards and the game’s initial score, arriving with senior Gabe Wilcox’s 1-yard touchdown run.
The touchdown was set up by quarterback Desmond Franklin’s 16-yard completion to lethal wide receiver Sam Franklin at the Shark 3-yard line. Interestingly, that catch would be Sam Franklin’s only reception. He was double- and triple-teamed most of the evening.
After Wilcox scored, the tide began to turn as NCT’s unheralded Matthew Robinson burst off the edge on special teams to block placekicker Joe Kelly’s ensuing point-after attempt.
From there on out, NCT dominated the exhibition game’s final 44 minutes tallying the game’s final 23 points.
Outstanding performances were turned in by first-year junior signal caller Jamison Carnegie, who went 8-of-12 passing for a game-high 157 yards, junior tailback DeShawn Smith with 16 carries for a game-high 86 rushing yards and a score (8 yards) and senior fullback Jermaine Green with seven carries for 83 yards and pair of scores (8, 1 yard).
“I feel like I did well especially the way our O-line held it down,” said the 16-year-old Carnegie. “I have to give it up to my line, without them I wouldn’t be here.”
On the significance of the win, “They beat us last year and now we beat them,” replied the 6-foot, 175-pound Carnegie. “It’s in the bag now; this was a big win.”
Green, 17, who is a converted lineman, added, “It’s a big win. It was an amazing game. It’s the start of something great.”
On whether he enjoyed one of touchdown runs better than the other, “I’d say they’re both even,” he said.
Robinson, 16, took the exhibition victory in stride, saying, “We could have played better. We need more work. Had we put up a zero against them then I’d feel better.
“Our line was blocking much better and Jamison had a good game. It’s still a preseason game, but it’s a start.”
In all, NCT piled up an impressive 415 yards of total offense and 19 first downs compared to CHS’ five first downs and 139 total yards. NCT’s defense muzzled CHS to one second-half first down.
CHS, which was forced into five punts along its final nine possessions, suffered one turnover when the backup quarterback, junior Ryan Grow, muffed a center snap late in the fourth quarter.
Grow and Desmond Franklin were sacked a combined four times led by NCT’s Robinson, who recovered Grow’s fumble, while senior inside linebacker Dylan Miller notched seven tackles.
Desmond Franklin had the team’s most success with 68 net rushing yards on eight carries.
On the plus side, Coach Taylor praised his team’s quick start.
“We started off very well. We marched right down the field and scored,” said Taylor. “That first drive proved we were able to run the football. We executed our offense well, but we’ve got to work on our blocking.”
As far as his biggest concern going into next week’s season opener in Spring Hill against Springstead, “I didn’t like the way we responded to adversity tonight,” noted Taylor. “Bad things happen during a game, but you’ve got to adjust and respond positively.”
From the home sideline, Coach Worden fumed over his team’s game-high 15 penalties for 112 yards.
“Three delay of game penalties is an embarrassment,” lamented Worden. “There was no sense of urgency out there. There has to be an edge to what we’re doing.
“Offensively, our goal is to wear people down and hopefully with the guys we have we can continue to do just that,” he said. “Defensively, we did a good job of weathering the storm. We’re going to play some teams in the district that will hit us in the mouth, but it’s how we respond.”
On unleashing Green, who rushed seven times for a net of 22 yards last fall, “During the summer he had this spark. We knew coming in we had four pretty good backs and they bring something different,” Worden said. “He’s like a bowling ball and just had guys bouncing off of him tonight.”
On assessing Carnegie, who completed 4-of-7 passes all of last season due to injury with one interception and no touchdowns, Worden said, “In the spring when we missed a bunch of assignments, he was the type of guy who avoided sacks and was able to find open guys to throw to. Tonight, he did a great job of managing the game.”
On Robinson’s overall efforts, “We’ve been looking for a home for him at receiver, tight end, somewhere,” detailed Worden. “He’s the kind of guy who has a knack for the ball.”
Nature Coast Technical 23, Citrus 6
Qtr. Scoring 1 2 3 4
CIT 6 0 0 0 --6
NCT 0 10 13 0--23
CIT –Wilcox 1 run (Kelly kick blocked by Robinson)
NCT – Florkowski 25 FG
NCT – Green 8 run (Florkowski kick)
NCT – Green 1 run (Florkowski kick)
NCT – Smith 6 run (Florkowski kick fails)
First Downs 5 19
Atts./Rushing Yds. 27-123 68-258
Comp./Pass Atts./Int. 2-4-0 8-12-1
Passing Yds. 16 157
Total Offense 33-139 80-415
Fumbles/Lost 5-0 2-1
Return Yards 5-48 3-20
Punts/Avg. 5-33.4 2-28.0
Penalties 6-44 15-112