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Chiefland football gets shutout win on the road

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By Sean Arnold

The Chiefland football team was far from perfect on its first road trip of the regular season.

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But its game on Sept. 26 – a 10-0 shutout at Hamilton County in Jasper – was exactly what the Indians needed just five days following their lopsided loss to Dixie County.

The team needed to wipe the bad taste from its mouth from back-to-back losses and get on some more positive footing to start the second half of the season.

Most importantly, the young CMHS squad needed to play, to get the experience, and do so in a setting where every mistake isn’t a deal-breaker for victory.

“It felt good, after the slate we had played, to come and get a win,” CMHS coach Adam Gore said. “It could have been by 40 points or by one point and it would have felt good at this point. We need something positive to really help the guys out.”

With a short week to prepare, and down a couple of starters on defense, the Indians made it simple and leaned on a superior defensive performance by Nick Brown’s unit, holding the Trojans to 158 yards, including just 59 on the ground on 20 carries.

Chiefland got all the points they’d need on their second possession of the game – a five-play, Brian Norris-led drive, culminating on a 6-yard keeper by sophomore quarterback Ty Corbin. The PAT by Noah Nguyen gave the Indians a 7-0 advantage with a few seconds remaining in the opening quarter.

That drive came on the heels of a rollercoaster drive by Hamilton County, which ended on a turnover-on-downs at midfield to set up the score. HCHS started the possession with a 39-yard completion, then was picked off by sophomore Sedrik Moultrie, only to get the ball back off a fumble on the return. Hamilton junior Melvin Brown slipped three would-be tacklers for a 17-yard rush on the ensuing play, only to see his Trojans stuffed on the next four plays.

A 40-yard pass early in the second quarter put Hamilton County in Chiefland territory, but the Indian defense rose to the challenge, as the Trojans fired three incompletions and turned it over again on downs. The Indian defense was put to the test again, however, as the Trojan defense picked off a dropped Corbin pass. Hamilton got as far as the CMHS 22-yard-line, before a false start and back-to-back incompletions gave it back to Chiefland.

“The defense really carried us this game,” Gore said. “We played a little bit more man (scheme) than what we’re used to, and it simplified it for them and allowed us to play fast.

“You go tackle the guy with the football.”

The Indians then drove the ball 56 yards on seven plays behind the rushing of Norris, Corbin and Hunter Barrand, only to see the drive foiled by a couple of bobbled balls behind the line.

Still, Chiefland limited itself to two turnovers – and just one in non-return situations, a welcome turnaround from recent games.

“We held onto the ball tonight, so I’m proud of that,” Gore said. “We’d like to open it up a little bit, but the defense played so well tonight we felt like if we could eat clock on offense and give the defense favorable field position.”

Later in the second half, Chiefland senior Lane Studstill forced a fumble, which was recovered by fellow Indians senior Tramaine Brown. And then in the waning second of the half, Aidan Horne picked off a Hamilton pass and returned it for a touchdown, only to see it wiped away by a roughing-the-passer penalty.

It happened again at the opening of the second half, when Jarrett Jerrels returned a kickoff 80 yards for score that was then nullified by an illegal block. But most of Jerrels’ yardage stood, setting up CMHS at the Trojan 24-yard-line. Chiefland settled for a 33-yard Nguyen field goal for a 10-0 lead in the third.

“He’s an excellent kicker for us,” Gore said of Nguyen. “He’s a kid that’s never kicked a football until this year.”

The teams exchanged punts for the remainder of play until Chiefland senior Dalton Tiner, with Hamilton threatening to cut into the lead in CMHS territory with four minutes remaining, jarred the ball loose from a Hamilton runner, allowing Moultrie to recover.

“Early on, when we’re fresh, we execute a little bit better,” Gore said. “We were leaning on people in the second half, instead of getting after it and really giving our backs some seams. It’s one thing I was kind of disappointed in. (Hamilton County) didn’t adjust to what we did at all in the second half.”

Jerrels, a sophomore, sealed it for good with a 37-yard run, moving Chiefland inside the Hamilton County 10.

While Chiefland narrowly missed on some big-play opportunities in the passing game, going 0-for-5 on pass attempts, it cracked 200 yards rushing with its committee attack, led by Norris’ 79 yards on 13 totes. Jerrels chipped in a pair of runs for 44 yards, while Barrand’s body blows amounted to 47 yards on 11 carries. Junior Wyatt Hammond added four touches for 18 yards. Those four backs combined to average 6.3 yards per carry.

With 341 yards through five games, Norris has already notched the most rushing yards by a Chiefland back in a season since he and Jarquez Williams compiled nearly 1,700 yards in 2015.

“We still left a lot of points on the field,” Gore said. “We missed a few blocks that would have sprung it for them. It’s one of those things, with a young team, we’ve just got to keep grinding and playing hard.”

Chiefland is at Hilliard, north of Jacksonville, Friday Oct. 6. The Indians have their homecoming game Oct. 13 against Hawthorne, and then senior night Oct. 20 versus Bronson.