By Mike Capshaw
Williston coach Jamie Baker had trouble getting his team fired up to play winless Chiefland before Friday's battle for the Levy Cup trophy. Chiefland coach Jim O'Neal had trouble trying to keep his team punched in when the Red Devils began pulling away en route to a 42-13 victory in Wayne Pridgeon Stadium.
"We're Chiefland! Play like Chiefland!" O'Neal shouted to his players late in the third quarter.
"I'm trying to tell them, 'Don't roll over and let them have it. Fight!'" O'Neal said. "But they’re busy rolling over saying, 'It doesn’t matter what you say at this point. We’re down and we’re never going to come back.' So until we get over that, it’s going to be this way. And this is going to continue to happen until we get a win. It’s a vicious cycle."
It's been 19 games and more than two years since Chiefland, a program that's won two state championship, has tasted victory. The Indians (0-7 overall) host Dixie County for homecoming at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. The Bears began the Indians' losing streak with a 42-0 defeat on Oct. 30, 2009. The game will be broadcasted live on WZCC (AM 940 in Chiefland, AM 1240 in Cross City) and at suncoastradio.com.
Because Friday's game was for the Levy Cup, Williston (4-3) should have been fired up to play what most in Chiefland consider to be a heated rivalry. But the rivalry has been so one-sided for years that Baker's response when asked if his team was fired up more than usual made sense.
"No. No, they weren't (fired up)," Baker said. "You come in and you play somebody that’s struggling like that and it's tough. The kids don’t understand, sometimes. You try to get them up to play every week, whether you’re playing the No. 1 team (Union County) like we’re playing (this) week, or somebody that’s struggling.
"'Get up to play and start smiling when the score is 42-7, but don’t smile until then.' It’s something they’ve got to learn and hopefully, they’ll get it soon."
Speed was the difference in Friday's outcome. Williston has it. Chiefland doesn't. That was apparent on the Red Devils' first offensive play when Brandon Preston darted 58 yards on a quarterback draw. Two plays later, Keith Neal ran up the middle for a 32-yard touchdown. Jorge Decidero's extra point (he was 6-of-6 on the night) gave WHS a 7-0 lead just 3:14 into the contest.
Preston, whom Baker said runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, finished with a game-high 255 yards on 18 carries. He scored three rushing touchdowns and added a 65-yard touchdown pass to Damien Strange that made it 35-7 with a minute to play in the third quarter.
"We’ve got a couple of fast kids, but we’re not a super fast football team all around," Baker said. "We played Fort White last week and their secondary and their linebackers were certainly faster than us. We’ve got a couple of kids that can move pretty good and that’s why we try to get those kids the ball."
Arguably Chiefland's fastest player, DeShawn Roland, was timed running a 4.58 in the 40 by CHS alum and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson during the Suwannee All-Skillz Camp this summer.
"Williston is always going to have us beat speed-wise," O'Neal said. "If we got out on a track, they would destroy us. If we play assignment football, we can beat teams that are faster than us. We used to do it all the time, but we’re not playing assignment football.
"The defense missed a few assignments and, obviously, the offense missed a lot of assignments as well. When we get out and execute our assignments, speed doesn’t matter. But when you don’t, it makes that speed look even worse because you’re out of position."
Preston scored again on a 49-yard run early in the second quarter and then Williston's other quarterback, freshman Paul Battles, turned a busted play into a 69-yard touchdown run to increase the lead to 21-0.
"We stuck to our assignments and were not bad moving the ball," Baker said. "We would have liked to move the ball a little better and executed a little better at times, but we obviously did well enough to win anyway."
Preston, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound senior who has rushed for 933 yards and is avergaing more than 10 yards per carry this season, was 2-of-5 passing for 77 yards and has completed 10-of-14 passes this season after taking over for David Heinkle, who sprained his ankle in a 35-20 loss at Fort White on Oct. 14.
"Brandon can throw the ball real well," Baker said. "In the last two games, Brandon hasn’t thrown many incompletions, so I was proud of him. Then we were able to get the Battles kid in and get him some reps because he’s going to need to be ready to backup for us."
Chiefland freshman Gangelo "GiGi" McClendon had a long kickoff return to midfield that had a 15-yard penalty tacked onto the end of it. Tough running by senior Robby McCabe steadily moved the ball in the red zone. The Indians were able to overcome a late-hit penalty when McCabe powered the ball into the endzone on 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line. That cut the WHS lead to 21-7 at intermission.
Trailing 42-7 after three more Williston touchdowns, Chiefland put together another scoring drive when McCabe bulled his way into the endzone from four yards out. The touchdown was set up a play earlier when Shaquille Patterson hit Roland with a long pass. Patterson and Roland traded snaps at quarterback.
While O’Neal was somewhat pleased with the play by his two sophomore signal callers, he wasn't excited about his running backs.
"The offensive line, from what I could see on the sidelines, did a decent job," O'Neal said. "The running backs, I don’t know why they wouldn’t hit the hole. They wouldn’t hit the hole all night. They hit it a couple of times and we had nice gains, and that’s when we put together a couple of nice drives. When we do what we we’re supposed to do, it works."
Penalties and missed assignments have been a problem for the Indians all season. They continue to shoot themselves in the foot in key situations on both sides of the ball. Eighty-eight percent of the team's roster is made up of sophomores and freshman.
"You can’t put your finger on any one thing. (Legendary CHS) coach (Doyle C.) McCall said to scratch where it itches and I told him that I don’t have enough hands. We've got a lot of issues, obviously, and a lot of it can be attributed to youth.
"So we’re definitely going through growing pains and it’s been painful. All we can do is keep fighting and keep plugging away and one of these days, we’re going to come out with a ‘W.’"
Baker was not too excited about the play of his defense. It was led by Covin Terrell's 15 tackles and Deshard Rollins with 12 tackles.