ST. PETERSBURG — Dixie Hollins coach Mike Morey said his team worked extensively on punt blocking in the week leading up to its matchup with crosstown rival Northeast.
The extra work certainly paid off for the Rebels.
Dixie blocked a punt in the third quarter to set up the Rebels' winning touchdown and snuffed out another Northeast punt attempt in the fourth quarter to preserve a 14-7 victory.
"The guys filled their gaps and did what they had to do," Morey said. "We should have scored on the last one to seal the game, but the turning point was definitely the two blocked punts."
With the score tied at 7 after a Northeast three-and-out to open the second half, Dixie's Hershell Holmes knifed through the Northeast punt protection to block Lukaz Chrzastek's punt attempt. Romeiro Fews recovered for Dixie at the Northeast 8-yard line.
On third and goal from the 8, Dixie quarterback Jesse Hevia found Curtis Fisher in the middle of the field to give the Rebels a 14-7 advantage.
The second block came midway through the fourth quarter after another Northeast drive stalled. Justin Paulton got his hand on the punt, and Fews dropped on the ball at the Northeast 7 for his second recovery of the night.
Dixie failed to capitalize on great field position after getting its own kick blocked on a 22-yard field-goal attempt. The drive, however, chewed up nearly all of what was left on the fourth-quarter clock. From there, Dixie's defense smothered Northeast into submission.
"Every time we make a mistake or a turnover, our defense has capitalized for us," Hevia said. "They've been working their heart out doing everything they can to get the ball back for us so we can do our thing."
Dixie's defense was stifling. Northeast had just 15 yards of total offense after halftime and gained only two first downs in the second half.
"The defense has played great the last two weeks," Morey said. "I think we confused Northeast with the blitz and everything else."
Dixie (2-0) scored the first touchdown with 1:26 left in the first half when Jacob Bellman ran off left tackle for a 5-yard touchdown. The Vikings (0-2) answered just before the half when, on fourth and 3 from the Dixie 38, Ryan Moore hooked up with Marquel Hubbard (three catches, 118 yards), who snatched the ball away from Dixie 6-foot-4 safety Gerard Atkins in midair to score the Vikings' only points.
With the victory, Dixie starts the season 2-0 for the first time since 2005.