How do you stop the predictable when no one else has?
That’s the question Wakulla football coach Scott Klees has been asking himself all week as the War Eagles (12-1) prepare to host Green Cove Springs’ Clay High in tonight’s FHSAA Class 5A state semifinal.
The Blue Devils (10-3) have one agenda and that’s to hand the ball off to running back Bilal Ally as many times as possible, letting him chew up yardage and clock behind an outstanding offensive line.
Ally missed the 2014 season with an ACL tear after rushing for 1,017 yards as a sophomore.
But as a senior he’s now rushed for 2,757 yards and 35 touchdowns. At 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Ally only has two significant college offers, one from Cincinnati and another from Georgia Tech, where’s expected to wind up.
“He’s impressive, no doubt,” Klees said. “My first thought was ‘How do you get that many touchdowns and that many yards?’ You start checking and you see how good the offensive line is. They’re coached very, very well. A lot goes into him getting that many yards. There’s a lot of pieces to the puzzle and everything they do is really good.”
Ally is averaging 25 carries per game and has 11 100-yard games this season in the 12 he’s played. But from Oct. 2 on— when he carried 34 times for a school-record 396 yards and seven touchdowns— Ally’s load increased.
In a 65-58 win over North Marion two weeks ago in the regional semifinals, Ally carried 35 times for a state playoff-record 496 yards, punching in five touchdowns on the ground to go with a 92-yard kickoff return touchdown.
Last week’s 40-28 win over Nature Coast Tech saw him carry 49 times for 317 yards and three touchdowns.
“How Godby’s running attack was last year is a lot like these guys,” Klees said. “We’re going to stay with what we do because it’s got us to this point. Our offense and special teams have been up and down, but our defense has been steady throughout the year. It’s just about who makes more plays, their offense or our defense.”
Klees wants to see wins up front, placing a heavy reliance on the defensive lineman to stand up Clay’s offensive linemen and allow linebackers to get downhill quick to where the hole is.
“It’s winning in the front seven,” Klees said. “We’re not going to stack it. There’s been teams that have tried and when you do that they break out from nine-yard runs to 60 and 70 yard runs. We’re just going to try to win every play up front.”
One of the biggest reasons why Wakulla is a winner of 12 games in a row and is now a win away from the state championship game— this is Wakulla’s first trip to the state semifinals since 2011 and only the fourth time in school history— is its drop in turnovers.
Last year during an 8-3 season, the War Eagles had 15 fumbles and eight interceptions, but this year they have just six fumbles and two interceptions. Wakulla had more turnovers in a 60-21 loss to Godby last year than it has had all this season.
“That’s the main win,” Klees said. “Our offensive is explosive and can score, but we’ve changed some things we’ve done over the last couple years where we’re not going near as fast or trying to hit the big plays. We’re trying to control tempo. We want to win time of possession and win the turnover battle.”
And that has Wakulla on the precipice of history. The school won its only two state titles from 1980-81 under J.D. Jones, and the 2011 state title game was a 38-0 defeat to Miami Norland.
First things first, the War Eagles must stop the run, but with four consecutive home games, things are feeling a lot like they did four years ago with the exact same home advantage.
“I’m very happy with where we’re at, but I’m not satisfied,” Klees said. “We have the talent on this team. It’s hard to win a state title. They’re very hard to get. It’s our goal and it’s definitely in front of us and reachable if we can just execute and make a couple more plays than the other team.”