As far as spring football games go, Thursday night’s in southeast Ocala packed a little more excitement than the usual late-school-year scrimmage. The starkly opposing dynamics of brand new Forest vs. same old Dunnellon made it a memorable one for first-year Wildcats coach Rayburn Greene.
While Greene just takes the reigns of the Forest program, Price Harris’ Tigers remain a finely-tuned machine. Dunnellon scored three first-half touchdowns to build a 19-7 halftime lead. The Tigers added another early in the third quarter en route to a 25-7 advantage before pulling their varsity players.
“I’m awfully proud of our kids,” Forest’s Greene said. “They hung in there and had a ton of fight tonight. We knew they were going to come in and make a bunch of mistakes. A lot of those mistakes Dunnellon is responsible for. They’re a great football team.”
On their third play from scrimmage, the Tigers found paydirt when Linwood Daniels ran in from 10 yards out for a 6-0 lead just 90 seconds into the game. With 1:30 remaining in the opening quarter, Dunnellon quarterback Javon Lee scrambled on 3rd and 14, eventually finding Manny Caballero alone in the end zone for a 21-yard strike. The Tigers went up 13-0.
Just 2:40 into the second quarter, Dunnellon again cracked the Wildcats defense. On the Forest 15, Lee threw to Troy Hamilton in the flat and Hamilton shed a blocker to weave his way over the goal-line for a 19-0 lead.
“I think Javon did a great job moving the ball,” Harris said. “Our new offensive coordinator, Tommy Sutton, did a fabulous job play-calling. Overall, I was proud of the way those guys moved the ball.”
Forest finally responded three minutes later when the Wildcats punctuated their first solid drive of the night with a two-yard dash across the goal-line from running back LarMarkces Bassett.
Greene, who came to Forest from Lecanto Seven Rivers Christian, will utilize a run-heavy offense with the Wildcats the same way he did to great success leading the Warriors into the Class 2A state playoffs last fall.
“That’s what I want our identity to be,” Greene explained. “We’re going to be a power run team. We’re very deep at running back. We’re going to run power football with some misdirection and just kind of take what the defense gives us.”
Dunnellon's Lee gave the Wildcats defense fits most of the evening. Early in the third, he kept the snap and darted 24 yards for another score to make it 25-7.
Harris was happy with the effort he got being slightly undermanned with several key players absent due to the Tigers state playoff baseball team still competing.
“Our first-team defense didn’t give up a point,” Harris said. “That Forest offense is a little tougher and we didn’t prepare for them, game-plan wise. They played their butts off.”
Greene says this summer will be a continuation of transforming the Wildcats in his image.
“We really want to come in here and turn the culture a little bit,” he explained. “Get a little bit more hard-nosed and a little bit more nasty.”