By Patrick Bernadeau
For Hometown News
MARTIN COUNTY - On the strength of long, sustained drives and a powerful running game, the 29th installment of the Martin Bowl was less a battle and more of a methodical, Bulldog- imposed beat down.
South Fork scored touchdowns on each of their first four possessions en route to a 46-0 Martin Bowl destruction of rival Martin County last Friday night at Bob Collins Stadium, snapping a two-game losing streak against the Tigers and cutting into Martin County's series lead, 15-14.
"I'm very proud of their effort" said South Fork head coach Dennis Lavelle, who along with the rest of the coaches in the area, had only a couple of days to work with his players due to the inclement weather caused by Tropical Storm Issac.
"I'm very proud of their attitude, their commitment, the way they behaved themselves and the way they worked the two days we did have to practice but they practiced hard and they did a good job."
Looking at the score, it's interesting to note that the Bulldogs (1-0) actually started their night off with a mistake. After choosing to receive the opening kickoff, South Fork running back and return man Lorenz Velasco fielded a bouncing ball that appeared to be headed out of bounds. As he scooped up the football, Velasco was out of bounds on the Bulldog 4-yard line.
Velasco would more than make up for it during the night and on that particular drive - a drive that traveled 96 yards over 14 plays, included three third-down conversions and more than six minutes off the clock - Velasco would add a reception and 37 yards on the ground during the opening possession, as South Fork's Cody Labanowitz opened the Bulldog scoring assault by finishing the drive with a quarterback sneak from a yard out.
Martin County's (0-1) best chance to light up the scoreboard came on the following possession when, after fumbling the handoff from Tigers quarterback Nolan Mullen, Colton Haggerty would toss and find a wide-open Mitchell Patterson downfield. The Tigers were set up inside the South Fork 5-yard line following the 61-yard completion, however a holding penalty on the next play and a Patterson fumble recovered by South Fork's Josh Zill ended the Tiger scoring threat.
A personal foul penalty committed by Martin County after the fumble allowed the Bulldogs to begin their second drive from the South Fork 21-yard line, instead of another drive starting deep inside Bulldog territory.
"They were ready for us," said Martin County head coach Chuck Kenyon. "They were on a high and they showed. We just dug ourselves a hole that we couldn't get out of."
With the extra room to operate, South Fork again marched down the field. A nine-play, 79-yard drive was capped off with a 23-yard touchdown run by Marcus McClain and a 2-point conversion from Velasco.
Velasco again would reach the end zone on the next Bulldog possession after scoring a rushing touchdown from 19 yards out. With 122 rushing yards on 12 carries, Velasco showed in this contest that he's the spearhead of a deep and versatile set of running backs. Velasco, McClain along with Kody Stripling, Vinnie Norelli, J.J. Manley, Mike Harris and quarterback Labanowitz led a running attack that accounted for a staggering 356 rushing yards and all six Bulldog touchdowns.
After the game, Velasco gave credit to his teammates all the way around.
"We love sharing the ball, it's not just me here," said Velasco. "It's also the offensive line, they block for everyone just as hard as they block for me. There's love everywhere around here."
Although the Bulldogs defense was able to force three turnovers en route to the shutout, South Fork's best defense was its running game, which stayed on the field, milked the clock and allowed its defense to rest and stay fresh. Of the Bulldog six scoring drive, five consisted of at least eight plays.
Martin County will try and recover after being shutout back-to-back weeks Friday when they play host to Vero Beach.
South Fork will play in front of their home fans for the first time this season as they host Port St. Lucie.
Both games will start at 7 pm.