CRYSTAL RIVER - Williston’s appearance in the Class 3A playoffs ended Friday night in an aerial attack by the Crystal River quarterback.
Helped by some timely penalties against the Red Devils, the Pirates won the wide-open contest, 53-49. Crystal River travels to North Marion this Friday night.
So committed to the pass were the Pirates that they had only two running plays other than those by quarterback Shay Newcomer. One was a fumble, and the other was a late touchdown.
Meanwhile, the Devils had a much more balanced attack, but were hampered by an injury to quarterback Devin Timmons which took away his threat to run in the second half.
Crystal River’s game is a short, quick passing attack, and that became apparent all too quickly. Unlike most teams, which have deferred when winning the toss against Williston this year, the Pirates took the ball. Mike Simma’s high kick was fair caught at the 25, and on the first play Newcomer hit Ronnie Baldner with a pass and the senior receiver did the rest, racing 75 yards for the score. The Pirates were called for an illegal block on the extra point and then missed the kick from 10 yards farther back.
Travis Evans took the kickoff at his own 15 and raced all the way to the Pirate 13. On the second play Deonte Welch ran for the apparent touchdown, but it was called back for an illegal block, and on the next play the Pirates got an interception.
The Williston defense came up big after another long pass, 64 yards, put the ball at the Devil 9. They got a stop and forced a field goal, which was blocked.
After Williston was forced to punt, Crystal River tried one of its rare running plays and fumbled, and Larry Debose recovered for Williston at the Pirate 48.
Five plays later, following a 31-yard run by Timmons, Evans took it in for the score. The Devils got a false start penalty on the extra point, but the extra five yards didn’t matter to Mike Simma who made it 7-6 with his kick.
On the first play after the kickoff, Newcomer fumbled and Isaac Floyd picked it up at the 19 and raced in for the score. Just like that, the Devils had two touchdowns in 16 seconds and a 14-6 lead.
The defense stepped up again and forced a fourth-down incompletion, but the Devils also had to punt. However, the ball hit a receiver and the devils recovered at the 47 of the Pirates. On the next play, the last of a long first quarter, Timmons picked up 20 yards. Four plays later, in the second period, Timmons hit Welch, who had beaten his man handily, with a 23-yard pass and it was 21-6. Things were looking good for Williston.
But the kickoff went out of bounds at the Chiefland 48, and on the first play a screen pass to Baldner from Newcomer broke for a 52-yard touchdown. A pass for two was good and it was 21-14.
Back came the Devils. The Pirates kicked short kickoffs all night, usually to Chris Morrow, and this time he took it to the Williston 49. A big 39-yard pass just a few moments later to C.J. James took it to the 2, from where Timmons ran in for a 28-14 lead, and remember, this was still the second quarter, and there were still three more scores to come.
Newcomer hit a 35-yard pass in the following drive and ran in for the score, but the key was three defensive pass interference penalties against the Red Devils. The kick after a penalty was once again wide and it was 28-20.
As you might expect, the Devils answered. With the big plays a 30-yard pass from Timmons to James and a 20-yard run by Welch, the ball sat at the 9. From there Timmons ran untouched into the end zone for a 35-20 lead with 1:25 to go.
That, as it turned out, was enough time for the Pirates, who drove 65 yards to score with 2 seconds to go. They were helped by a late hit penalty, but an offensive interference penalty apparently stalled the drive. It didn’t faze Newcomer, who threw 21 yards to Baldner for the score with 2.5 seconds to go in the half. Still, Williston led 35-26 after the missed two-point conversion.
Then came what may have been the key turning point. Timmons kept for five yards, and on the second play ran an option left, pitching the ball to Welch. When the piles cleared after the no-gain play, both Welch and Timmons remained on the ground. Welch got up quickly and would return, apparently at full strength, but Timmons had to be helped off.
Two plays later Welch was back to punt, and got off a 50-yarder to the 11. But no hole was too big for Newcomer to get his team out of, and a series of passes plus a 16-yard run by the QB moved the ball to the 23, from where Timmons hit Jake Noland for the touchdown. The kick made it 35-33.
Timmons came back but was noticeably limping. Still he completed a couple of passes until a holding penalty stalled the drive. The teams traded punts until Crystal River broke another big pass, Newcomer to Baldner, for 65 yards and a score with 1:52 left, and at the end of three quarters it was 40-35 with the Pirates ahead.
By now the temperature had dipped way down, but the Devils stayed hot, with Timmons hitting James for a 23-yard touchdown. A two-point pass was intercepted and Williston led, 41-40.
After that each team put on a good, time-consuming drive, an unusual event in this game. Crystal River drove all the way in for a two-yard touchdown on an end-around by Baldner, only the second running play other than those by the quarterback, and a 46-41 lead.
Williston countered with its final points of the night on a 57-yard drive in nine plays. The longest play of the drive was the touchdown, a 25-yarder from Timmons to James, to make it 49-46 with 3:16 to go.
That was plenty for Newcomer and his boys, but they got some crucial help. After they were set back on a holding penalty on the return to the 22, Newcomer threw a short pass to Noland. He was hit, apparently cleanly, in the open field, but a flag was thrown for a helmet hit. When the argument had cleared, the officials walked off plenty of yardage all the way to the Williston 22. Three plays later, Newcomer somehow escaped a hard rush and found Torrion Smith on the left side for a touchdown, and the kick made it 53-49.
Williston had one last gasp, but Smith picked off a long pass on the first play, and Newcomer had but to take a knee three times to end the contest.