By William Smith
Special From ECB Publishing, Inc.
Much was at stake as the Warrior football team took the field last Friday evening in the crisp October twilight air, ushered in by the roar of the many hundreds of Aucilla faithful who had flocked to the school in commemoration of the ritual that has defined alumni for generations.
For the entirety of the previous week, Aucilla had been celebrating its 41st year of existence with traditional celebrations and festivities that mark the anniversary of one of the pillars of Jefferson County’s education and social system.
However, all of these events were simply the hors d’oeuvres that signal the arrival of the much-anticipated main course for the special week: the annual homecoming game.
While these circumstances alone would provide abundant motivation for any squad of players, the Warriors had even more incentive that night, a fire in their bellies supplied by the need for one simple thing: redemption.
The week prior to Aucilla’s homecoming, the Warriors had fallen to their most hated adversary, the Bobcats of Robert F. Munroe. It was a loss that left players and coaches with a proverbial black eye that could only be cured by the self-assuring feeling of a well-earned victory.
And so, the student-athletes suited up with a single mentality: to exert their will upon the Seacoast Christian Eagles. Four quarters, 49 points, and one shutout later, the Warriors had finally exorcised the bitter feeling of defeat that had hung over their heads like a mist.
It was a victory that was earned through complete authority in every aspect of the game, including offense, defense, and special teams. Almost all of the damage was done in the first half, when the starting squad of Aucilla players scored no less than 42 of their eventual 49 points.
The Warriors hearkened back to the old days of football tradition for their success, staying true to the foundational goals of rushing the football and stopping the opponents’ rushing attack.
This shutout represents Aucilla’s third this season, and according to the coaching staff, was achieved long before the last second ticked off of the clock Friday night.
“From the very first meeting this week, we had once again set the goal for our defense that we force a shutout against Seacoast Christian.” said head coach Colby Roberts. “We made the players understand that success is gained Monday through Thursday, and that after a great week of practice, the game itself is a reward.”
The defense responded to the coaches’ challenge by forcing four turnovers, sacking the Seacoast quarterbacks nine times, and recording its second safety in what ranks as one of its best performances so far this season.
Despite being the smaller squad of players, the Warriors displayed impressive speed and a physicality that quickly subdued any offensive progress by the Eagles of Seacoast Christian. An aggressive defensive scheme of rush blitzes and stout play by the Aucilla linebacker corps corralled the misdirection running attack of Seacoast, forcing them into the perimeter pressure of Aucilla defensive ends as they vainly attempted a passing attack as the score increased.
The defensive success was a total team effort, with 8 different players contributing to the sack total, as well as four players each securing a turnover. Defensive team leaders include senior defensive end Trent Roberts, who finished the game with 2 ½ sacks and a forced fumble; junior linebacker Bradley Holm, who returned an interception for a touchdown, as well as securing three tackles for loss and a blocked punt; senior defensive tackle Corey Burrus, who had two sacks to go along with two tackles, and sophomore defensive tackle Cole Schwaub, who recorded a sack, recovered a fumble, and scored the defensive safety late in the first quarter.
The Aucilla offense established a bullish rushing attack complimented by a play-action passing game that was extremely effective in establishing the physical presence that was so lacking in the previous loss to Munroe. In total, Aucilla backs were responsible for six rushing touchdowns and 243 yards of the 377 yards of total offense, led by Bradley Holm’s 97 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Holm carried the ball only five times, gashing his way to 19.5 yards-per-carry average. Senior Phillip Watt also contributed with two scores to go along with 33 rushing yards, and junior Jarrod Turner finished with 63 yards on nine carries.
As the second half began, Aucilla’s starters gave way to several freshman backups who gained valuable game experience for the future as the offense began to wind down. Most notably, backup quarterback Timmy Burrus completed two passes for 33 yards, as well as contributing another 34 yards rushing and a touchdown.
As the fireworks boomed in the background and the cheers rose from the stands, the Warriors regained their swagger in front of a homecoming crowd with their own pride on the line, a victory that signals that the season isn’t quite over for the Warriors. This is a fact that is not lost on Coach Colby Roberts.
“It was very important to get this win after what happened last week. So far, this has been a season of overcoming adversity, and with a 5-2 record, we are still very much alive in our conference. Next week’s game against Maclay will be the most important game to date.” said Roberts.
A loss against Maclay (4-2, 2-1) would seal Aucilla’s (5-2, 1-1) fate for its conference hopes, while a victory would improve its chances at catching Munroe (3-4, 3-0) in the divisional standings. Maclay features a brilliant rushing attack behind speedster back Lee Williams, who is the reigning Class 1-A champion in the triple jump, as well as the 100-meter dash. All efforts will conceivably be focused on stopping the one-man highlight reel that rushed for 127 and three scores on just eight carries in Maclay’s 31-0 victory over St. Joseph Academy Friday night.
The Warriors will travel to Tallahassee to decide their conference fate against Maclay this Friday evening at 7:30. Tickets may be purchased at the gate.