At every turn, Scott Klees received a warm and fuzzy greeting. In fact, the Wakulla High football coach probably led the Big Bend in hugs and handshakes on Friday night.
It was a road trip across county lines, but an important homecoming victory for Klees.
Klees and the seventh-ranked Class 5A War Eagles finally had the upper hand against North Florida Christian, beating the top-ranked Class 2A Eagles 38-7.
Wakulla (3-0) not only snapped NFC’s 15-game win streak dating back to last season’s undefeated state title trek, the visitors restored family order in the Klees home. It wasn’t an easy night, but it was a big step in the right direction.
“It’s nice to get back on the winning side of this thing,” Klees smiled.
There’s no need to trace Klees’ familiar family tree, but he attended NFC and played quarterback. His nephews recently played at NFC and other family members still attend the school.
Recent holidays haven’t been too comfy for Klees.
The past two years, another former NFC alum and quarterback coached NFC past Wakulla. Of course, that would be Robert Craft. This time it was Craft who graciously tipped his cap in defeat.
The Eagles (2-1) missed an early scoring chance that may have helped, but the War Eagles simply had too many weapons. They jumped to a 24-0 halftime lead and pushed their advantage to 38-zip in the fourth quarter.
When’s the last time you’ve seen a running clock — on the Eagles?
“It was about what we expected,” Craft said.
“An excellent, well-coached team. There was no surprise in what they did on offense or defense, they just out-executed us more than anything else.”
More than anything else added up quickly.
Senior quarterback Caleb Stephens directed Wakulla’s veer option to more than 400 total yards. The War Eagles were equal opportunity, registering three passing and two rushing touchdowns and a 44-yard field goal from Dillon Norman. NFC avoided the home shutout late in the fourth quarter.
For Stephens, winning probably made four hours of sleep feel like eight. He planned to hop a ride to Atlanta bright and early this morning with teammate and Georgia Tech commitment Chris Griffin to watch the Yellow Jackets tangle with Virginia.
“This wasn’t so much a payback but just a true show of talent,” said Stephens, who threw for 178 yards and touchdowns of 30 and 37 yards.
“This is a great rivalry game, a family bond for coach (Klees). I also have a lot of friends at NFC, so it was a great experience to play one of the best teams in the area.”
Preparation for the game started mid-afternoon for both programs.
NFC held a pep rally the final 20 minutes of school. Players walked across campus to Fellowship Hall for their pregame meal of baked chicken, macaroni, green beans and tea.
That was followed by a brisk walk-through on the field before everyone retreated to the locker room. Players had the next 90 minutes to themselves, listening to music, sleeping, relaxing, before they dressed for the first wave of warm-ups at 6:45 p.m.
Wakulla was on a deliberate schedule, too. The War Eagles traveled to a local church for their pregame meal following school (last week’s menu featured hamburger steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, bread and tea).
They returned to their locker room, where coaches passed out equipment and held a meeting. The team loaded on two buses and departed at 4:45 p.m. for Tallahassee.
Wakulla arrived safe and sound, and was simply too good when the scoreboard clock started.
“We just couldn’t keep up,” NFC linebacker Garrett Hudson said. “They just came to play. Beating them two years in a row, I know they wanted this one bad.”
The War Eagles were far from perfect, however, They were plagued by holding penalties and suffered a few injuries that concerned Klees. Griffin also didn’t play because of a shoulder bruise.
Wakulla’s fans poured from the stands and surrounded their team underneath the goal posts following the game. There were plenty of smiles and high-fives.
And it seemed as if everyone was looking for Klees.
Contact assistant sports editor Jim Henry at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JimHenryTALLY.