KEYSTONE HEIGHTS - Hard hits, interceptions and an opportunistic defense got the Keystone Heights High football team to a 28-7 halftime lead en route to a hard-fought 28-20 win over Crescent City High Friday night at Keystone Heights High School. The win keeps the Indians at 5-0 for the season with 1A-Wildwood High (3-3) next up at Wildwood. Wildwood, 7-6-1 last year, lost in the region 4-1A final to Pahokee.
"It was fun, I'm hurting, but we got after it in that first half," said Kade Sanders, who lined up as a defensive back, a linebacker and a safety to cause disruption throughout the night. "We know on the defense that we are the ones who set up the offense."
Keystone Heights coach Chuck Dickinson entered the game knowing that the rivalry with Crescent City, coached by ex-NFL running back Clarence Williams, would be rugged.
"This was as typical as any game we've ever had with them; last year, it was 20-14," said Dickinson. "We got the opportunities in the first half and then hung on."
In the first series, with Keystone Heights taking the opening kickoff and injected tailback Ty Friedlin for three straight carries behind the Indians offensive line, the offense stalled at midfield to force a punt that Ian Schofield hustled downfield to cover and pick up the punt muff to put Keystone Heights at the Crescent City 24.
The Indians offensive line; Chris Hoffmeyer, Caleb Moncrief, Cody Wells, Michael Kirtley and Joey Baxter bashed up front with straight dives to Friedlin, who finished with 84 yards on 20 carries, and Colby Townsend, who got 68 yards on 13 carries, until quarterback Gage Stevens finally punched into the end zone from a yard out to put the Indians up 7-0.
Next series for Crescent City lasted just two plays with John David Schenck snatching an interception to put the offensive back in play at the Indian 45.
Friedlin would fumble the ball away on second down at the Indian 22 with a minute left in the first quarter to put Crescent City in scoring position. A two yard run tied the game at 7-7 as the second quarter started.
Stevens would direct a run-strong offensive series with Friedlin, opening with a 10 yarder, and Townsend, who punched in four first down runs to avoid third down plays, throwing body blows behind Baxter and Sanders scatting off the edge keeping the Crescent City defense honest. Sanders had back-to-back eight yarders at midfield to keep the Crescent City defense from packing up the line of scrimmage.
"We try to grind up the middle as much as we can, then get something off the edge to keep the defense honest," said Townsend. "If we get, 3-5 yards a pop, we keep moving the chains."
Townsend would barrel in from 19 yards out to put Keystone Heights up 14-7 with Schofield handling PAT kick duties.
Next opportunity came from a crushing tackle from Sanders and Hoffmeyer that sent a loose ball to the turf at the 15 where Dalton Hollingsworth scooped and ran to paydirt to put the score to 21-7 just a minute later.
With Townsend, a top player on the Keystone Heights soccer team, handling kickoffs, Dickinson called for an onsides kick that Townsend delivered with Hollingsworth again on the loose ball putting Keystone Heights back on offense at midfield.
"If we keep the pressure on, we put them on their heels," said Sanders.
Friedlin and Townsend could not budge the ball to force a punt that put Crescent City at their own 14 with 1:52 to the halftime break.
Pass breakups from linebacker Andrew Cox and defensive end Layton Murphy kept Crescent City stuck deep before Townsend and Murphy chased quarterback Naykee Scott on the run with a fourth and four pass going wide to force a punt.
On the punt, Sanders was in quickly on a bobbled punt snap to destroy the kick and give Keystone Heights a final scoring opportunity.
"I kind of read the situation and if I feel like everyone is not paying attention, I go," said Sanders.
From the 16, Stevens got three downs to the two before following Friedlin in for a score and a 28-7 lead as the half ended.
For Williams, the shock of the Keystone Heights hitting and tenacity was no surprise, but his halftime talk was meant to calm his team down.
"I know they are kids and all the bad luck we had was going to get them down," said Williams, nicknamed "Pooh" and a running back at Florida State University and for the NFL Buffalo Bills. "I just told them to relax, forget it and let's play our game."
Whatever it was Williams said on the break, Scott came out revved up and ignited the Crescent City offense with a 64 yard run to the Indian 19 and a six yard touchdown pass in just two minutes to close the score to 28-14.
Friedlin and Townsend took turns trying to bash the Crescent City defense, but the drive stalled at the Indian 33.
Scott went back to work in the air, but got snuffed by an interception by Ryan Jones at the Keystone Heights 26.
"They came out in the third quarter and scored quickly and that's when we knew we would be in a dogfight," said Dickinson. "Their number two, the quarterback, can change a game in a quick minute."
On the next play after Jones' pick, Stevens got hit while scrambling and lost the ball where Scott took over at the Crescent City 25.
Missed tackles along the way gave Crescent City an exhausting 21 play drive that ended with a five yard touchdown and the score at 28-20 with 9:20 left in the game.
Keystone Heights would go four downs after the kickoff and give Scott another shot at a game-tying drive, but a sack from Kirtley and second down at midfield and another sack with Kirtley and Schofield getting behind the line of scrimmage kept Scott at bay before Townsend picked up a fumbled ball at the Keystone Heights 28 with 3:42 on the clock.
Sanders would go for eight, but an illegal procedure flag pushed the Indians back.
"We kept shooting ourselves in the foot; jumping offsides on a second and two, and missing tackles we were getting to in the first half," said Dickinson. "Everyone was getting tired from the long drive."
A Friedlin punt put Crescent City at midfield for a final showdown for the game with Sanders delivering a bone-jarring tackle on a pass play downfield that Kirtley would recover the loose ball.
Keystone Heights would stall and give Crescent City one more shot, but Jarrett Hughes would strip a Crescent City wide out of his final catch to end the game.
Keystone Heights sits on top of the region 1-4A lineup with Cocoa and The Villages Charter both at 5-1 and South Sumter at 4-2.