By William Smith
Greene Publishing, Inc.
And finally, the levee breaks. After a 2014 season built of equal parts frustration and hope culminating in wins and losses alike but irritatingly withholding the perfect performance seemingly foretold on paper, the Warriors of Aucilla have done the expected, putting on a dominant show against the Seahawks of Franklin County to improve to a 3-2 record.
Just one week after yet another disappointing loss against divisional rival John Paul II, a game in which the Warriors squandered a double-digit lead at halftime, thanks to turnovers and penalties, en-route to a wrenching 36-23 loss and a 2-2 record, the Boys in Blue came out with a vengeance, deftly controlling every facet of the game in convincing fashion.
It was the very definition of a team win: nearly every player imaginable contributed in some form or fashion without any one player seizing the glory of a standout game. Indeed, the credit firmly rests on every player who suited up that night, according to head coach Colby Roberts.
“I can certainly tell you that as a coaching staff, we’ve been waiting for a game like this all season. One where instead of relying on one or two players, every kid on the team stepped up to the plate and delivered. It’s as satisfying a win as I can remember in recent years from the perspective of meeting expectations and taking care of business.”
In keeping with the theme of “team over individual,” the Warrior offense as a unit was a sum of solid, if unspectacular, individual performances that when viewed as a whole became a balanced attack that kept the Seahawk defenders on their heels, guessing for 48 minutes.
Chief among the skill players was senior running back Nick Roberts, who along with several others filled in for injured thumper rusher Wesley Smyrnios to power the Aucilla offense to 375 total yards, including an old-school 218 yards rushing on 42 carries. Roberts was used mostly as an edge-runner with deadly cutback ability, gathering 57 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. His single best play of the night, however, was a first quarter screen pass delivered by quarterback Austin Bishop that saw Roberts weave in and out of traffic on his way to a tone-setting 48 yard touchdown from which the Warrior offense never looked back.
Shades of 2013 were also seen as senior superstar wide receiver Timothy Burrus returned to the backfield to run his patented direct-snap sweep, a play utilized dozens of times last season. Simple but deadly, Burrus paced the team with 65 yards on the ground on eight carries.
Most encouraging of all though was a return to offensive action by senior newcomer Shon Blue, an athlete with rare speed that provides lightning quick, chuck-yardage-chewing pitches to the outside that force defenders to play laterally rather than vertically. Blue contributed 54 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries.
Defensively, Aucilla was stifling. Not yet this year has this unit played this well, bottling up Franklin County’s every move and rarely giving any margin for Seahawk backs and receivers to gain momentum.
As is always the case in a Warrior defense, middle linebacker Cole Schwab was prolific and indispensable with 16 total tackles, including two bone-jarring tackles for loss. Schwab has quietly grown into this position since last season, displaying instinct and a propensity for punishing those unlucky enough to cross his path. He has clearly become the heart of this Aucilla defense.
End/outside linebacker Nick Roberts once again wrote his name into the narrative with seven tackles and an impressive fourth quarter safety as Franklin County was backed up against their own goal line, desperately trying to claw their way back into the contest. The safety was the final nail in the Seahawk coffin.
Other contributors on defense included linebacker Austin Harrell with 13 total tackles; defensive end Cameron Burns, with three tackles and a crucial sack; and defensive tackle TJ Swords, with three tackles and a tackle for loss.
Also of note, especially for Aucilla, was the impressive leg of senior kicker Zack Arceneaux, who has been an invaluable special teams’ weapon all year. Arceneaux was booming kickoffs and punts all game long, significantly impacting the field position battle as yet another dominant facet of Friday night’s display. He even added a crowd-rousing 41 yard field goal in the second half as everything was coming up “Warriors” in the second half.
Said Coach Roberts, “You just cannot put a price tag on the importance of Zack’s ability to this team. Trust me, I’ve coached and played at Aucilla for years. We don’t usually have the ability to convert long field goals or use deep kickoffs and punts to pin an opponent deep in their territory. It’s huge. But really, it’s just how this game went. All of the positions that you never hear about played very well. The offensive line, special teams, and defensive line. We’re proud of them.”
Aucilla seems to have finally caught lightning in a bottle, and not a second too soon.