KEYSTONE HEIGHTS - Keystone Heights High football entered their Friday night clash with 1A-Union County High hoping to get a win and a first-round bye in the region 2-4A playoff slate, but the Tigers, playoff bound in region 3-1A as the sixth seed, were not accommodating as they muscled to a 22-8 win in Keystone Heights. What the Indians got was a highlight reel from defensive back/wide receiver Colton Tibbetts who snared two interceptions and had a 25 yard steal of a catch to set up the Indians' lone touchdown.
"We have a few guys banged up from our schedule and the bye would have given us a little time to recover," said Dickson, now at 7-2 and slated to host fifth-seed Astronaut High (5-5) on Fri., Nov. 8. "We have seven junior varsity players suited up to help the roster."
Union County, entering Keystone Heights with a 5-4 overall record, brought its storied program history; three state titles in the 90s, back-to-back one loss seasons in 2011 and 2012 and successive winning seasons since 2009, showed little mercy on the depleted Keystone Heights lineup with powerback Hosea Robinson, a 206 pound downhill runner with games of 253 and 139 yards the past two weeks, blasting the interior of the Indians defense throughout the night.
"They are pretty much like us; just power football," said Dickinson, prior to the game. "We'll go nose to nose with who we got and see what happens."
Playoffs: The loss puts Keystone Heights (4th, 7-2) as the No. 4 team in region 2-4A with The Villages (7-2) at three, South Sumter (8-2) at two and Cocoa (6-3) at number one. South Sumter and Cocoa earned byes for the first round of playoffs with Astronaut (5th, 5-5) coming to Keystone Heights and Cypress Creek (6th, 2-8) heading to The Villages Charter (3rd, 7-2). Winners from the first round games will take on the top two seeds.
In region 1-4A, Bolles (8-1) is top seed with West Nassau (8-2), Gadsden County (5-4), Marianna (6-4), South Walton (5-4) and Bradford (4-5) the rest of the field that will determine the state semifinal matchup on November 22.
West Nassau finished regular season play with a 47-0 win over Ridgeview on Fri., Nov. 2.
Against Union County, the Indians defense was tasked with stopping Robinson with the Tigers opening with a 13 play drive that ended with Indians linebacker Colby Townsend knocking down a fourth down pass at the Indian 20, but the drive sapping critical energy from the Indians defense.
The Indians offense generated two four down offensive series in their first two possessions before Tibbetts just missed on his first interception, but Jarrett Hughes answered near midfield with his own pick.
A sack and a hold flag pushed the Indians backward and forced a Hughes punt as the quarter ended.
On the first defensive series of the second quarter, Tibbetts struck with his first interception with a minute off the clock.
With Dalton Hollingsworth spelling powerback Ty Freidlin (concussion protocol), Keystone Heights could only got the Union County 34 before punting.
From the Tigers 25, Union County again pounded the Indian interior with Robinson pounding 10 of 12 times in five minutes to a 14 yard run at 3:10 and an 8-0 lead at the half.
Union County drove eight times on the opening drive of the second half to score a 16-0 lead quickly with the Tigers converting a fourth down and one at the Indians 14 yard line.
Hollingsworth kept the offense moving in small chunks, but a punt ensued for the Indians prior to a Tibbetts snagging his second interception with 4:14 left in the third.
On the next series, Hollingsworth mishandled a pitch from quarterback Gage Stevens to give up a fumble and put Union County's offense back on the field.
At the Indian 39, Keystone Heights got a fumble recovery from Tyler Jenkins to stop a Tiger drive with a minute left in the third quarter.
A Layton Murphy sack on fourth and one at the Indian nine yark line turned the Tigers back on a third score and set up a 15 play drive to paydirt with Tibbetts sensational catch putting the Indians on the Union County four yard line where Townsend finished off the effort to score the game 16-8. Keystone Heights had just two third downs in the time-consuming drive with Townsend rampaging for a 22 yard gain and Hollingsworth adding an 11 yarder as the Tiger defense was feeling the unrelenting energy of the Indians' surge.
The scoring excitement for Keystone Heights did not last long as Union County got a 38 yard run from Robinson to a two yard score with a minute to go.
A final interception from Union County ended the game.