Williston tops Citrus in preseason classic

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By Jim Clark

It was during the fourth quarter of last Friday's preseason classic between Inverness Citrus and Williston High School's football teams.

In the west end zone, the Williston players milled around, some sprawled on the ground using their equipment as headrests, watching the junior varsity. The coaches stood and watched as the JV won its quarter.

There was a feeling of satisfaction in the air that only comes after a good performance.

In three quarters of varsity action, the Red Devils had blanked Citrus, 28-0. Williston piled up nearly 400 yards of offense. The defense held the visitors to just 40 yards on the ground and 18 in the air, most of that coming on a deflected pass.

"I'm pretty excited," said coach Jamie Baker as he watched the final minutes tick down.

Senior running back Travis Evans rushed for 122 yards in just eight carries, including 83 on one touchdown scamper. He also had a 24-yarder late in the first half that just missed going all the way.

It was junior quarterback Dalton Edwards who really showed the crowd something. Last year he was thrown into some tough situations as the backup, but now this is obviously his team and it showed. He ran with confidence for 85 yards in 12 carries and had three runs of more than 10 yards.

"He grew up," said Baker. "He's a year older, he went to two camps, and," he added with a smile, "plays against a pretty good defense every day."

Through the air, Edwards was 3-for-6 for 105 yards, including two touchdowns.

That defense that Edwards practices against hardly gave the visitors a thing. "Just like Dalton, they grew up," Baker noted, although on paper the defense still looks young.

If there was a down side, it was some key penalties that negated several good plays.

But that didn't matter in the final scheme of things.

For a while memories of last year's classic rainout in Inverness came to mind as the officials talked to the schools about the lightning that was on the distant western horizon. However, it never got close enough to even hear thunder, so after an eight-minute delay the teams went back on the field. The storm stayed over Chiefland and delayed that game for about 90 minutes, but never made its way to eastern Levy County.

The evening started with a three-and-out and a short punt for the Devils. But the defense, faced with Citrus having the ball in Williston territory to start, snuffed out a running play and then created three incomplete passes.

The Devils got the ball back at the 37 and marched 63 yards in five official plays, with two others being negated by holding penalties. The big play of the drive was a 46-yard pass from Edwards to Deonte Welch, who made the catch while trying to stay inbounds along the near sideline, to put the ball at the 14. On the first play from there, sophomore Dontrell Edwards took the pitch from Dalton Edwards and skirted left end for the TD. Chris Priest kicked the extra point, a shaky boot that barely cleared the bar, but that was the last time he left any doubt. His next three PAT kicks were perfect as he looked like a polished veteran the rest of the night.

The defense immediately forced a punt, and the Devils took over at their own 17. On the first play Evans burst up the middle, cut to the left and went 83 yards for the score, and suddenly it was 14-0.

The teams exchanged fumbles, as Harvey Mason recovered for Williston, but early in the second period the home team got on the board again. This time the score came on a 26-yard pass from Dalton Edwards to Welch, a perfect lead into the end zone that should make the season's highlight tape. Now it was 21-0.

In the last drive of the half, Dalton Edwards and Evans each had 24-yard runs, with Evans leaving a bunch of would-be tacklers wondering where he went. But the drive stalled just before the half.

In the third and final period, Williston took over a punt at its own 29 after a holding penalty. Welch had a 17-yard run in the drive. Courtney Days had a nice run called back to put the ball at the 33, but then Days came back to the ball to catch the 33-yard TD pass from Dalton Edwards to close out the scoring.

The season starts for real this week with a Friday night home game against rival P.K. Yonge, a team the Devils defeated in overtime last year. "I don't know much about them," Baker said, but added he was getting film on them shortly.

If Hurricane Hanna affects the schedule, it will be posted on the Pioneer Web site.