CRAWFORDVILLE – It still wasn’t the Wakulla football team’s perfect game.
But it was a pretty perfect result.
The War Eagles’ third-quarter fumble led to a Clay touchdown, the only true blemish on the turf of J.D. Jones Stadium, but the War Eagles’ big plays dominated Friday night’s Class 5A state semifinal game.
Wakulla senior quarterback Feleipe Franks threw touchdowns of 15, 46 and 52 yards, the special teams unit contributed two long kick returns, and the defense held Clay’s running game without an explosive play.
The War Eagles’ 34-24 victory over the Blue Devils puts them in next Friday’s state championship game in Orlando. Wakulla (13-1) will face Orlando’s Bishop Moore (13-1), the first appearance by Wakulla in the state title game since 2011.
“It was a perfect night,” War Eagles coach Scott Klees said. “Offensively, if we don’t fumble, we score every time we touch the ball, Our defense made them earn everything. There were no big plays like they had been getting. They were physical, but I think the difference was we were more physical. We kept pounding, and that took over at the end of the game.”
Down and dirty
The first task for Wakulla was to somehow slow Clay running back Bilal Ally, who entered with 2,800 yards rushing and 35 touchdowns, on the heels of the last two playoff games where he carried 84 times for 903 yards and eight touchdowns.
Ally reached 35 carries but was limited to 152 yards. He never reached the end zone and his longest run of the night was 19 yards.
“We knew this was a very great back,” Wakulla senior linebacker Monterious Loggins said. “Our goal was to hold him to 100 yards, so 150, not too bad. We played team ball. We knew they had greater size than us, so we just had to keep fighting. We got it done.”
Slow and steady
Clay (10-4) got on the board first, taking the opening drive 20 to 20 before the Wakulla defense limited the damage to a 37-yard field goal.
The War Eagles then came out on their first possession and were immediately faced with a three-and-out possibility at their own 41, but converted a fourth-down play.
Franks completed his first four passes on the drive and junior running back Demarcus Lindsey capped the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run 21 seconds into the second quarter.
“I have to give it all to my offensive line,” said Franks, who rushed for 59 yards on a night where he was 9 of 12 passing for 175 yards. “They dominated up front. That gives us the time to throw down field. It feels good to run the ball a bit and throw the ball well. The offensive line opened gaps, they pass protect amazingly, they get yelled at all practice and get no glory in the game. If there’s any credit to give, it goes to them.”
Clay power back Colin Wilson finished off the first of three short touchdown runs on the night on the ensuing drive and the Blue Devils reclaimed the lead.
But that was until Wakulla went right back down and Franks found Gavin at the line of scrimmage, adjusting to the double coverage over the top. Gavin broke a tackle and raced in for a 15-yard touchdown.
“I adjusted my route,” Gavin said. “Feleipe seen me, got it over and I broke it.”
With the War Eagles getting the ball out of halftime, it was a chance to create separation.
And unlike several missed deep patterns during the course of the year, this time Franks hit Gavin in stride for a 46-yard touchdown strike minutes into the third quarter.
“Last week, we had an off game, I had an off game and we just weren’t clicking,” said Gavin, who finished with five catches for 94 yards. “But this week, I told everyone I’d come with it.”
“All week long we were working, even Wednesday when we didn’t have the best weather we still came out and worked, catching balls in the rain.”
Clay missed a 42-yard field goal, as the Wakulla defense stalled another drive outside the red zone.
Only Franks’ fumble on the ensuing drive allowed the Blue Devils thoughts of a comeback, but he made up for the mistake by pinpointing a 52-yard touchdown pass to Kelton Donaldson for a 27-17 lead.
“Feleipe played the best game of his career tonight,” Klees said. “He had several key runs, but the offensive line was great and we had just one sack. Then Kelton, how steady has he been the past five weeks? And Keith was the man, offensively and defensively. He showed up tonight and showed why he’s the player that he is.”
After Clay chewed up seven minutes of fourth-quarter clock on a 20-play, 80-yard scoring drive, Lindsey followed up an onside kick recovery with a 28-yard dagger of a touchdown.
“It felt great,” Lindsey said. “I knew it was over after that. Me and my brothers, we get to go to state. Everybody’d been doubting us. We proved them wrong.”
WAKULLA 34, CLAY 24
Clay 3 7 7 7 — 24
Wakulla 0 13 14 7 — 34
C — Lane Delapp 37 field goal, 4:43
W — Demarcus Lindsey 9 run (Feleipe Franks kick), 11:39
C — Colin Wilson 1 run (Delapp kick), 5:29
W — Keith Gavin 15 pass from Franks (conversion failed), 1:34
W — Gavin 46 pass from Franks (Franks kick), 10:46
C — Wilson 2 run (Delapp kick), :22
W — Kelton Donaldson 52 pass from Franks (Franks kick), :04
C — Wilson 3 run (Delapp kick), 5:04
W — Demarcus Lindsey 28 run (Franks kick), 2:38
Passing— Clay: Jaylan Jenkins 8-8-55-0-0, Jake Smith 1-1-(-2)-0-0; Wakulla, Feleipe Franks 9-12-175-3-0
Rushing— Clay: Bilal Ally 35-152, Jenkins 19-43, Marcus Jones 3-17, Colin Wilson 9-17; Wakulla, Demarcus Lindsey 11-67, Cephus Greene 1-0, Brandon Berry 3-6, Franks 6-59, Justin Davis 2-10
Receiving— Clay: Ally 4-29, Malik Ray 3-28, Jenkins 1-(-2), Denaud Valmyr 1-(-2); Wakulla: Keith Gavin 5-94, Kelton Donaldson 2-61, Lindsey 1-11, Sebastian Garner 1-13
Clay (10-4), Wakulla (13-1)
Wakulla vs. Bishop Moore (13-1), Dec. 11, 1:07 p.m., Class 5A state championship game