FORT WHITE, Fla. — The Bulldogs showed plenty of bite Friday night.
Armed with an early lead, the Suwannee defense pinned its ears back and hounded Fort White throughout the season opener at Arrowhead Stadium for a 28-7 season-opening win.
Suwannee scored on its first three possessions and that was more than enough for the Bulldogs’ defense, which limited the Indians to just 106 yards of total offense and a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.
“Defense was swarming to the ball … and, man, the effort is there,” Suwannee coach Kyler Hall said. “As long as that’s there and we’re swarming to the ball, we’re going to be pretty dadgum good.”
That defensive effort included four sacks, all coming in the first half, and 13 other runs stopped behind the line of scrimmage. In all, Fort White rushed for just 60 yards on 39 carries, 45 of which came on a fourth-down jaunt by Kameron Calhoun with eight minute remaining in the game to set up the Indians’ lone score. Calhoun punched it in from 2 yards out three plays later to make it 28-7.
The Fort White score answered Suwannee’s first score in more than two quarters when Jaquez Moore capped a six-play drive with a 7-yard run on a toss that put the Bulldogs up 28-0 with 10:20 remaining in the game.
It was Moore’s second touchdown as he hauled in a 19-yard Tyree Taylor pass to finish off the first drive of the game.
The Bulldogs needed four minutes and nine plays to grab the lead after Taylor opened the game with an 18-yard run. Three plays later, DeMarius Thompson broke loose for 11 yards on a third-and-short run. Thompson led Suwannee with 88 yards rushing on nine carries as the Bulldogs finished with 224 yards on 34 carries.
Then, with Suwannee facing a third-and-9 from the Fort White 19, Moore caught a screen pass in the left flat and followed a Josh Braun block before running through a Fort White defender to get inside the pylon.
“We figured they were going to bring some pressure,” Hall said of the screen call. “O-line set it up great, the back was there perfect.”
It didn’t take long for the Bulldogs to add on.
Forcing a three-and-out, Antonio White partially blocked Houston Crews’ punt and the Bulldogs took over at the Fort White 40. Four plays later, a scrambling Taylor found Terrell Atkinson in the very back of the end zone on third-and-16 from the 34 for a 14-0 lead. Taylor completed four of his first five passes for 66 yards in the opening quarter.
On the third play of the Bulldogs’ third drive, Nyalen Seymour cut through the Indian defense untouched for a 41-yard touchdown run on third-and-5.
“We continue harping on the first quarter, coming out starting fast which we have the first two weeks,” Hall said.
Despite that strong start, though, there are still areas for the Bulldogs to work on before heading to Santa Fe next week looking for the program’s 500th win since 1927.
Suwannee missed opportunities to tack on additional scores late in the first half and throughout the third quarter. The Bulldogs also had an 80-yard Moore touchdown run in the fourth called back by a penalty, as well as an apparent defensive score on a fumble return by Blaine Howard nullified and switched to an incomplete pass.
The Bulldogs were called for seven penalties and had two turnovers on a pair of interceptions — one off a receiver’s hands and the other a deep ball.
“That’s the type of stuff we have to clean up,” Hall said. “The games are going to get tougher and tougher and we can’t allow a team at any point to get back in a game.
“The good thing about it is there was a lot of teachable moments along with getting the win.”
The Bulldogs remain on the road, traveling to Santa Fe. The Raiders defeated Newberry 22-7 in their season opener Friday.