NAPLES - Ground and pound is a mixed martial arts term, but Gulf Coast used the tactic to great effect Thursday night, banging out a 21-12 victory over North Fort Myers.
The 2-0 Sharks ran more than 50 offensive plays, but only four were pass attempts. The rest was a straight ahead rushing attack. Sophomore quarterback Will Sheriffs led the way on the ground with 105 yards rushing, the last coming on a one-yard dive for the Sharks' last score with 5:19 left in the game. All three scores came on the ground.
Leading 6-0, NFM fullback Ricky Noel rambled for an apparent 28-yard TD run midway through the second quarter, but the senior was stripped of the ball by defensive back Josh Custer just before he crossed the goal line. The Sharks recovered in the end zone for the touchback.
Twelve plays later, junior back Gage Rion scored from three yards out to help give the Sharks a 7-6 lead.
Sheriffs' 16 rushing attempts set the tone for the victory, his biggest run coming on a 45-yard dash in the second half. On defense, the Sharks were led by linebacker Mike Scott. The senior recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter and also stood up Knights QB Brandon Makar at the goal line as he tried to tie the game at 14-14 on a two-point conversion attempt early in the fourth. Makar never made it into the end zone and North trailed 14-12.
North (0-3) took the opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown. On an 11-play drive, Makar was impressive, completing 3-of-4 passes for 87 yards, including a 21-yard TD strike to Brian Byrd. Strangely, he didn't attempt another pass until the second half as the Sharks shut down the Knights' running game.
The Red Knights host Mariner next Friday night.
NFM 6 0 0 6 - 12
GC 0 7 7 7 - 21
NFM - Byrd 21 pass from Makar (kick failed)
GC - Rion 3 run (Vivinetto kick)
GC - Drugan 7 run (Vivinetto kick)
NFM - Makar 2 run (run failed)
GC - Sheriffs 1 run (Vivinetto kick)