In a tight contest between two of the top Class 1A teams in the state, Williston capitalized on four second-half Chiefland turnovers for 57-28 win.
Entering the game, the undefeated Red Devils (10-0) were ranked No. 8 by MaxPreps and the hosting Indians (6-2) were at No. 3.
“We didn’t play well, but we played hard,” said Williston coach Robby Pruitt. “In the second half, our kids kept fighting, hitting adversity. (Chiefland’s) a good football team. They’ve got big play potential and they can bust one at any time and I thought our defense did a good job of containing them.”
Chiefland went ahead 22-20 on a Clint Thomas 2-yard quarterback keeper and a Junior Brown two-point run with 6:58 to go in the third quarter.
Kyree Edwards, who found ways to make big plays on both sides of the ball all night, took the next run from scrimmage 44 yards to Chiefland’s 8-yard line and scored on the next play. An Eddie De LaCruz PAT made it 28-22.
On the ensuing drive, Chiefland was backed up on its 18-yard line and facing 3rd-and-24 when Michael Tovine was intercepted by Williston defensive tackle Jatavon Jenkins. The 330-pound senior nearly scored before he was brought down at the 6-yard line, leading to Shooby Coleman finding Jackson Islam for a 10-yard touchdown pass four plays later. Jamari Williams ran in the two-point conversion for a 36-22 Red Devils lead.
“That was a huge play down there and (Jenkins) is a kid that hasn’t made all the practices and, as big as he is, we thought he’d help us at some point and tonight was that night,” Pruitt said.
Chiefland would score with 6:12 left in the game on a Dakota Fisher 9-yard run to close within 36-28 before an avalanche of turnovers would seal the game for the Red Devils.
On its next drive, Williston used nine plays to march 55 yards and eat up the clock as Coleman passed to Javon Brown on a 29-yard pass that put the Red Devils ahead 43-28 with 1:58 left.
The Indians got the ball back, but a bad snap sailed past Thomas and Williston’s Nicholas Washington recovered at the Chiefland 10-yard line. Edwards would score on a 6-yard run with 43 seconds left for a 50-28 lead.
“I felt it wasn’t like until we got down two scores that things started getting away from us,” said Chiefland coach James Corbin. “It’s not because of a lack of effort but I felt we overexerted ourselves trying to make more happen than what was there. And that’s when we ended up having some fumbles and some key takeaways from us and that’s going to punish us.”
On the next play from scrimmage, Thomas caught a pass and was attempting to juke two Williston defenders when the ball slipped from his grasp and into Brown’s hands. Brown returned the fumble 40 yards the final score, 57-28
On the ensuing kickoff, Chiefland bobbled the return and Williston recovered to end the game.
“My biggest worry coming into this game is we hadn’t played but one game all year (against Newberry) where we had four quarters,” Pruitt said. “Last week our starters played 10 plays, the week before that 12, the week before that 15. We’ve had a running clock in every single game.”
The first half started with Chiefland’s Anthony Blackman intercepting a Coleman pass on the third play of the contest, but a 10-play Indians’ drive was hindered by a sack and a false start penalty and ended with a punt.
Two plays later, Chiefland’s Jonathan Adams recovered a fumble at the Williston 25-yard line, but once again the Indians failed to capitalize when Blackman fumbled and the Red Devils recovered at its 17-yard line.
“Until tonight we hadn’t had a turnover all year,” Pruitt said. “It’s the first time in my career going nine games without a turnover, but we had our share tonight and they did too. One of those games like a heavyweight fight.”
Edwards broke loose three plays later when he outraced the Chiefland defense 75 yards for a touchdown with 3:50 left in the first quarter. The 2-point conversion failed and Williston led 6-0.
The Indians answered when Tovine passed down the right sideline to Thomas for a 35-yard score, but Chiefland failed on its 2-point run and the game was tied at 6-6.
Williston drove 51 yards on its next series, capped by an Edwards 6-yard run. A De LaCruz PAT made the score 13-6.
The game looked like it would be tied again when the Indians marched to the Williston 10-yard line, but a Thomas throw into the end zone was intercepted by Brown and returned to the Red Devils’ 41-yard line.
Three plays later, Coleman found Islam who took the pass 59 yards for a touchdown and Williston went ahead 20-6 with 6:10 left in the half.
Chiefland answered on its next drive, going 80 yards with Thomas throwing to a wide-open Fisher for a 36-yard score. Brown ran in the 2-point conversion to make it 20-14 with 1:34 left.
Williston dodged a bullet on the final play of the half as Adams was pressuring Coleman, it appeared the ball came out of Coleman’s hands and Reggie Adams scooped it up and ran 80 yards as time expired. But instead of a fumble, the referees deemed intentional grounding and that Coleman was throwing the ball instead of it popping loose.
“The biggest thing for us as a team is, we have to decide now how this game going to impact us,” Corbin said. “Is this game going to make us say we have all the talent in the world, we just have to come together and fight and we have to fix our little mistakes. Are we going to use this as an opportunity to blame somebody else to save face as an individual? If we chose to do that, we’re in trouble. If we chose to come together as a team, like I know we can play like we have the majority of this season, we’re going to make a deep run again (in the playoffs).”
Friday, Nov. 4, results
Eastside 36, Gainesville 0
Bolles (Jacksonville) 49, Buchholz 28
Hawthorne 52, Astronaut (Titusville) 0
South Sumter (Bushnell) 61, Newberry 21
P.K. Yonge 35, Keystone Heights 22
Union County (Lake Butler) 31, Walton (DeFuniak Springs) 15
Branford 36, Hamilton County (Jasper) 0
Fort White 55, Santa Fe (Alachua) 21
Williston 57, Chiefland 28
Suwannee (Live Oak) 10, Bradford (Starke) 7
Bell 35, St. Francis Catholic Academy 0
Chipley 35, Dixie County (Cross City) 0
Belleview 42, Trenton 6
Umatilla 41, Bronson 12
OFF – Oak Hall School (season over), Columbia (3S-District 3 champions)