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‘DRIVE TO DECEMBER’

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Playoffs set to begin

By Jeff Bryan

For the third straight season, Dunnellon High School finds itself in the playoff mix where it’ll begin its “Drive to Orlando” against Trenton on Friday at Richard Kennedy Stadium.

“I think they are a proud program, they’ve had a lot of success the past couple of years in (Class 1A),” Dunnellon coach Price Harris said. “It’s going to be a tough game, I look forward to it. I think it’ll be a challenge; it’ll be a neat atmosphere.”

It’s a position in which Dunnellon fully expected to be in before the season. Now that it is here, Harris wants to see his squad do more than reach the second round, which it has done the past two years.

But before Dunnellon can erase its painful second-round exits each of the last two seasons, it will have to not just slow down Trenton’s power-rushing attack, it will have to stop it. Led by RB Eric Henry (1,390 yards, 14 TDs) and FB Randy Fuller (1,022 yards, 12 TDs), Trenton has amassed 3,917 yards on the ground.

And after a lackluster performance against Baker County a week ago in which Dunnellon yielded a season-high 477 yards to the Wildcats, Harris believes his defensive unit is up to the challenge, especially after its “disappointing” performance a week ago.

“I think we played very poorly on Friday,” Harris said. “I think, overall, the guys want to get that one back and prove that’s not who they are. The guys were very disappointed in the way they performed. They have a lot of pride, it bothered them a little bit.

“After film, they saw some things that were not Tiger football and not very proud of. Hopefully this week in practice we’ll correct some of those things and get back to playing defense like we know how to play.”

Key, Harris said, besides stopping the Trenton rushing attack, is controlling the line of scrimmage.

“We didn’t do that last week,” Harris said. “We have some match ups, I think they’re not as deep athletically as we are, and I think we can take advantage of some those match ups. We should be fine.”

For Dunnellon, it will have running back Jase Williams back in the fold after missing the Baker County contest with a concussion; receiver/running back Camron Massey will likely be a game-time decision aftr sustaining an ankle injury against the Wildcats, Harris said.

“Having Jase back will be huge,” Harris said about the senior back. “(Camron) has a sprained ankle, so those can be tricky. They can be a week, three weeks. We’ll use caution with it, we have to have him later in the playoffs. He’s a great kid, so if he misses a couple of days of practice, he knows what he’s doing. He’ll be fine.”

Special teams wise, Harris believes his team has an advantage over Trenton.

“They’re not great in the special team’s area, so we feel like we can take advantage of some of those things,” he said. “Their kicker and punter don’t kick it deep much; we should have the advantage in the special team’s area.

With two small-town powerhouse programs competing, Harris expects Richard Kennedy Stadium to be packed to the brim.

“I’m pretty excited about it, it should be a great atmosphere,” Harris said.

Compared to years past, Harris feels this year’s team is more battle-tested than in year’s past.

“That’s the reason we played the teams we played,” Harris said, noting Trenton will be another tough opponent. “I feel like we’re very battled tested.”

While Harris and Dunnellon don’t enjoy losing, the loss to Baker County could be better for the team.

“We’ve kind of rolled into the playoffs the past two years,” Harris said. “We had that really tough game there at the end, I think that will pay off dividends going into the playoffs. We’ve been playing a lot of big games. It makes it a lot of fun.

“It’s not fun just beating up on people, having to play a good game, figuring out how to win and getting your will tested. I think our guys are very battle tested. I think it’s very good for us.”

DUNNELLON VS. TRENTON

* WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Richard Kennedy Stadium.

* RECORDS: Dunnellon 7-2 overall; Trenton 8-2.

* LAST WEEK: Dunnellon lost to Baker County, 50-26, while Trenton pounded Hamilton, 49-16.

* OF NOTE: In February, Trenton made headlines for its off-the-field action as much as its on-the-field play when FHSAA forced Trenton to play in Class 4A for two years as opposed to Class 1A after a self-reported recruiting violation by a student-athlete at Trenton that was transmitted through social media.

* ABOUT TRENTON: It boosts a potent rushing attack led by RB Eric Henry (1,390 yards, 14 TDs) and FB Randy Fuller (1,022 yards, 12 TDs). QBs Tyrique Barber and Jayce Gentry have combined to throw for 562 yards, six scores and two interceptions. Trenton has rushed for 3,917 yards and including Henry and Fuller have two other backs (Barber and Gentry) rush for more than 400 yards. Trenton’s offensive line and defensive front seven are virtually all seniors. The backs, outside of Fuller, are small and quick, and Fuller is more of a big-play guy than your usual fullback. DT Derri Danzy (6-3, 300 pounds) leads Trenton in tackles for lose this season.