ZEPHYRHILLS – The North Marion Colts eliminated the Zephyrhills Bulldogs with a 40-21 decision in a turnover and penalty-filled effort by Zephyrhills Friday night at Bulldog Stadium. This is the second consecutive year they were eliminated in the Regional semifinal round.
Zephyrhills Coach Nick Carroll described the performance as “Shooting themselves in the foot” referring to the six turnovers and 110 yards in penalties in the contest.
The tone was set early when on the first play from scrimmage, Colts Running back Jolecco Gaskin II broke through the Bulldogs line for a 55-yard touchdown run just 12 seconds into the game. Gaskin II racked up 206 yards on the night and scored three touchdowns.
The Zephyrhills effort was not without merit. On the next two Colts possessions, after a fumble by the Dogs at midfield, Tre Gallimore and Ja’quan Sheppard intercepted passes by North Marion’s Corey Wilsher. Gallimore’s pick, tipped by Brendon Shipp, went for a 57-yard touchdown to get them back in it at 7-6 after a blocked extra point.
Following a second quarter Colts field goal, the Bulldogs gave the ball away again on a fumble that resulted in the second Gaskin II score, a 7-yard rushing effort.
With just seconds remaining in the opening half, North Marion drove the ball to the Zephyrhills 8-yardline, but they were stopped, forcing a 25-yard Tyler Stopford field goal. The 13-point North Marion first half run took the score to 20-6 at the end of the half
The Bulldogs opened the second half scoring with a 22-yard Sheppard touchdown reception from Doug Crawford closing out a six-play, 75-yard drive just 3 minutes in. Crawford then added a 2-point rushing conversion to bring Zephyrhills within 6 points 20-14.
Wilsher then put the Colts back ahead by 12 with a 2-yard touchdown pass to M’Quandre Council. A blocked extra point brought the score to 26-14 in favor of the Colts.
On the ensuing kickoff Zephyrhills had their brightest play of the game with a 97-yard touchdown return by Cartrell Strong to bring it right back within 5 points at 26-21, but that’s as close as they would get.
The Colts would pull away on Wilsher’s 53-yard scoring pass to Shipp. The Bulldogs had several chances to get back in the game but three fumbles in the last eight minutes handed the game to the Colts.
With just seconds remaining in the game another Gaskin II’s score on a plunge into the end zone from a yard out closed out the scoring at 40-21 to end the game.
The Colts will advance to face the Nature Coast Sharks next Friday in the regional final and the Bulldogs will have to wait until next year for another shot at a championship.