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Crystal River vs. North Marion // Who has the edge?

QUARTERBACK

Crystal River: Quarterback Jimmy Grimsley didn't need to throw last week, but in recent weeks has played well. He and primary threat William Richardson have found their timing and been able to hook up on a few key touchdown plays. For the season, Grimsley is 43-for-91 for 545 yards, with six scores. Richardson has 25 of those receptions, and Anthony Cooks (6 catches) and Bruce Bellamy are big-play threats.

North Marion: The Colts run a lot of option, but that hasn't stopped sophomore Tim Yarn from throwing for 566 yards on 34 completions. Yarn has thrown seven interceptions to just four touchdowns, but his exceptional running ability makes him a double threat.

Advantage: North Marion.

RUNNING GAME

Crystal River: The Pirates have outrushed opponents 2,554-920 and have one of the finest rushing attacks in school history, led by super soph Leroy Hill. This season, Hill has set a school record with 1,231 yards and 12 touchdowns, and has 365 yards the past two weeks. The speedy Cooks is an all-purpose back, and averages 8.3 yards a carry, and Ricky Posselt has run for 418 yards. The three have combined for 21 touchdowns, but four other runners have at least 100 yards rushing and a touchdown.

North Marion: The Colts have run for 1,945 yards but given up almost as much. Yarn is the team leader with 571 yards and six touchdowns on 147 carries, and tailback Derrick Sheffield is close behind with 73 rushes for 566 yards and five scores. Derrick Rackard has 279 yards rushing, an average of 7.2 a carry.

Advantage: Crystal River.

DEFENSE

Crystal River: The Pirates have been strong this year, and the numbers are impressive. They have allowed just 920 yards rushing (2.9 yards a carry), 893 passing, and just nine offensive scores. No team has been able to score in the first quarter, and the Pirates have outscored opponents 160-19 in the first half. For the year, they are giving up 7.9 points a game, and the three highest point totals scored against them are 18, 14 and 12.

North Marion: The Colts are yielding 290 yards a game, 180 on the ground and 110 through the air, which is ominous since the Pirates run for 255 a game. Sheffiled doubles up on defense and has 120 tackles, and Rackard is at 116. The best pass rusher for North Marion is Robert Johnson with six sacks, and Alphonso Johnson has three interceptions. The Colts did surrender 35 points to Lake Weir in a loss to close out the season last week.

Advantage: Crystal River.

KICKING

Crystal River: Coach Earl Bramlett has settled on Jonathan Sullivan to kick the point-afters, and he has done well since taking over for Richardson. But no kick is assured with the Pirates. Richardson has punted well, and his low rolling kickoffs have given opponents fits.

North Marion: Chris Joyner has kicked 5 field goals and has 14 extra points, and is the leading punter in Marion County with 37.6 average.

Advantage: North Marion.

INTANGIBLES

Crystal River: The Pirates will be playing at home in the playoffs for the first time since 1988 when they lost 14-5 to Alachua Santa Fe. Many of the seniors still remember the 54-0 pounding Santa Fe administered in the '94 playoff game. And the Pirates are simply hot _ nine straight wins.

North Marion: The Colts are 4-6 and one of a few teams in the playoffs with a losing record. They have nothing to lose and aren't expected to win, so there is little pressure. However, entering the playoffs with two straight losses isn't good.

Advantage: Crystal River.

_ JOHN C. COTEY

Cotey's pick: Crystal River 22, North Marion 6.

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