Wakulla junior running back Demarcus Lindsey was barely out of last Friday night’s postgame handshake line when the emotions of a 34-24 FHSAA Class 5A state semifinal win over Clay High hit him.
He didn’t race towards the north end zone like his other teammates. They slapped him on the shoulder pads as they ran by.
Lindsey was in tears, overjoyed.
“We haven’t done this in four years,” said Lindsey, who recorded two rushing touchdowns in the victory. “It just feels real great. I get to do this with all my brothers.”
As Wakulla (13-1) readies for Bishop Moore (13-1) in Friday’s Class 5A state championship (1 p.m.) at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, the thoughts of four years ago are on all the War Eagles’ minds, even though none of them were on the team at that time.
That’s because “brothers” has an extra, literal meaning for Lindsey, whose brother Demetrius was a junior running back that year and missed out on a state title when Miami Norland handed Wakulla a 38-0 defeat.
This year’s War Eagles, like so many teams before them, are aware of the history. They’ve had brothers and cousins play. This year’s senior class largely has known each other since they were kids, adding to the urgency.
“It means a lot,” senior linebacker Monterious Loggins said. “Us boys, we’ve grown up together since rec park. To do it together, to get to a state title game, it’s a real blessing and we’re real thankful.”
“It’s just a long-time goal,” said senior receiver Keith Gavin, a teammate with senior quarterback Feleipe Franks since elementary school. “I’ve worked four years for this. I’m finally heading down. We worked hard, spring, summer, this season, all day, every day.”
Norland, behind former Miami and current Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson’s five-touchdown day, dominated Wakulla that December 2011 day. The War Eagles were already facing the No. 8 team in the country that year, but the nerves of playing for the first state title since Wakulla went back-to-back in 1980 and 1981 was too much.
“The difference this year, I hope, is me, where I’ve grown up more,” 10th-year Wakulla coach Scott Klees said. “In 2011, I was just so happy to be there. I was excited to be there and I couldn’t really calm down. Our coaching staff couldn’t calm down. Our players couldn’t calm down. It was excitement to be there, and to be honest it was a little much. That’s embarrassing to say, but it was. This time, we’re focused. We’re going in with a mindset to win this year.”
Bishop Moore is also looking for a state championship after a long hiatus. The Hornets last won one in 1970, and after a state semifinal appearance last year are primed to break through.
Bishop Moore absorbed four players when Lake Mary Prep’s football program was dismantled in 2013, leading to key contributions this season. The Hornets also have a standout in Rayshad Lewis, whose NFL Hall of Fame father Ray Lewis will likely be in the stands.
Wakulla is hopeful its preparation and its standouts such as Lindsey (1,121 rush yards, 10 TD), Franks (2,544 yards passing; 33 TD vs. 2 INT) and Gavin (47 receptions, 886 yards, 14 TD) will have it become the team it has felt destined to become.
A win would have more than just Lindsey crying.
“We’re playing for all the family members and cousins,” Klees said. “Everybody runs through Wakulla, because we’re a one-school town. They all grow up, they’ve all played. We’re playing for every team that fell just a little bit short.
“They’re playing for their brothers or cousins who didn’t win it. We’re playing for everyone. We’re working real hard to bring this state championship home to represent this team, past teams and the whole community.”
2015 FHSAA Class 5A state championship game
Who: Wakulla War Eagles (13-1) vs. Bishop Moore Hornets (13-1)
When: Friday, Dec. 11 at 1:07 p.m.
Where: Citrus Bowl in Orlando
TV: Bright House Network; Radio: 94.1 The Wave