• Fort White running back Brayden Summers tries to escape a tackle as he looks to gain yardage against Suwannee on Friday night (CHRISTINA FEAGIN/Special to the Reporter).
    Fort White running back Brayden Summers tries to escape a tackle as he looks to gain yardage against Suwannee on Friday night (CHRISTINA FEAGIN/Special to the Reporter).

PREP FOOTBALL: Poor second half costs Fort White against Suwannee

Suwannee scores 28 points in final 24 minutes to rally for season-opening win.

LIVE OAK – Turnover-free football in the opening half helped the Indians to a slim halftime lead. Fort White wasn't as careful after the break, committing its first of four turnovers early in the third quarter – and its momentum was never be regained.

Suwannee capitalized on Fort White's mistakes and scored 28 unanswered points in the second half. The Indians scored once more later in the fourth, but it wasn't enough to avoid a 35-19 defeat to the Bulldogs Friday at Paul Langford Stadium.

"Them boys just came out with a little more fire than we did," Fort White receiver Kanell Stewart said of the second half. "They made a few more key plays than us and took the advantage and got the momentum."

Fort White's defense kept Suwannee quarterback Tyree Taylor contained for most of the opening half. Taylor, who finished with 79 passing yards, managed to score just one touchdown, coming on the first drive, thanks to a energetic Fort White defense that forced three turnovers in the first half. Despite the defensive effort, the offense only scored two touchdowns in the first two quarters.

"It was more so of what we didn't do in the first half and it escalated in the second half," Fort White coach Demetric Jackson said. "Not capitalizing on [Suwannee's] mistakes. We had some opportunities to put the game away, got a couple fumbles and an interception [but] we didn't capitalize on that."

Fort White quarterback Dylan Blair finished with 239 passing yards and three touchdowns. But his offense sputtered in the second half as the Indians failed to find a rhythm behind the new transfer quarterback. Fort White's defense began to unravel as the offensive woes continued. Blair's three interceptions after halftime proved critical and helped the Bulldogs to their first win in the series since 2015.

"At that point we lost some confidence," Jackson added. "They went man-to-man [coverage] and started stopping our run game. So it gave us a chance to throw the ball but as we got closer to the end zone, the passing lanes weren’t there for us. But this is what we wanted to see – a good, quality opponent early in the season. And see how we adjust to it. We just didn't make enough plays in the end, hats off to Suwannee, they did."

Suwannee (1-0) drove Fort White (0-1) downfield on its opening drive. Jaquez Moore's 8-yard touchdown run gave the Bulldogs an early advantage. Fort White's sluggish start ended when Blair connected with Stewart for a 52-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. The tribe found a groove after the big play, jolting not only the offense but their defense as well.

The Indians were back in the end zone when Blair found Rahman Paul for a 13-yard touchdown with four minutes left in the first half. Suwannee's defense stifled the Fort White's offense in the second half, keeping running backs Stanley Maxwell and Brayden Summers contained. The Bulldogs took advantage of their blunders as Taylor scored touchdowns on back-to-back possessions following turnovers.

After Suwannee running back Carlton Hall scored his second and final touchdown in the fourth, Fort White's offense finally answered after a long stretch without a score. Derrick Roberson's 23-yard touchdown catch trimmed the deficit yet the comeback was short-lived. Blair's interception on the final drive sealed the loss.

"We usually work better under pressure but it just wasn't one of those nights," linebacker/fullback Kam Calhoun said.

Fort White looks to shake off the loss and get prepared during the coming week of practice. The Indians are set to host regional opponent Providence next week.

"Let's get back to work," Jackson said. "And make the corrections that we need to make. And let's go protect home field and go get a victory."

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