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"Tonight we played a complete game," Indians head coach Ajay Ulmer said. "We wore them down, and then we capitalized on it."
Chiefland football got back to .500 and looked back on track with a decisive 35-14 win over district rival P.K. Yonge Friday. Two quick scores in the first quarter got them a nice cushion, but it was tough play in the trenches through the middle of the game that made it possible to put the Blue Wave away for good.
Tommy Sheffield was the ballcarrier on the Indians' first two scores, first with a five-yard run and then with a 60-yard run, all in the first five minutes of play. With one good extra point kick by Garrett Schmidt, Chiefland led 13-0, a nice lead when a potential disaster occurred.
While trying to advance over midfield with under two minutes left in the first quarter, the Indians fumbled and Wave defender Autis Gibson scooped the ball up for a 20-yard touchdown return. From a shutout position, P.K. was suddenly very much alive.
The Wave tried to parlay one advantage into another. From the kickoff, Chiefland put together another long drive that brought them to the lip of the goal line, but P.K. repelled them from the one-yard line, forcing the Indians to give the ball up on downs.
The remainder of the half was brutal, with P.K. pushing a six-minute drive to nowhere and Chiefland giving up another fumble. Nobody scored - there was that much defense. Despite the scoring drought, the Indians' defense controlled the field throughout the game. P.K. never scored on offense, getting one TD off the fumble recovery and the other on a punt return in the fourth quarter.
Following the second quarter standoff, the Indians returned to the field after the break with renewed focus. On the Wave's second drive of the third quarter, Chiefland had them pinned inside the 20 and blocked the fourth down punt. Jamantye Thompson got under the ball as it rebounded off the hands of teammate Stephen Davis and caught it just inside the end zone for the breathing-room Chiefland score. For insurance, Sheffield ran in the two-point conversion.
Although he had a sure hand earlier in the game, suddenly P.K. QB Carlon Hunt could no longer find an open man downfield. It took a pass interference call to get the ball near the Chiefland goal line. Davis and Reggie McClendon harassed the P.K. receivers, breaking up passes, and McClendon intercepted one.
Here again, the Indians couldn't get the ball home and had to punt back. It was Gibson again for the Blue Wave as he received the ball on the 30 and carried it 70 yards back for P.K.'s remaining touchdown.
With the Blue Wave looking close again, Chiefland made a heroic burst to control the game. Thompson intercepted Hunt on the Indians' one-yard line, and from the snap, Tyson exploded through the line, untouched, for a 99-yard keeper, all the way to the end zone. With Schmidt's kick good, Chiefland recovered a two-touchdown margin.
Now it was open season on Hunt, as first McClendon and then Clenton Wasson intercepted his passes. Jakarr White carried the ball in on a seven-yard touchdown run to seal the game.
After the second quarter stalemate, Ulmer told the players in the halftime locker room to "play the second half the way we've been playing the first half all year."
"We fought through some adversity tonight, penalties and like that, but the kids wanted it, and it showed when things got tough, early in the second half."
Tyson, playing QB for the injured Brent Slaughter, agreed.
"We got it done in the fourth quarter," he said. "We'd like to get it done a little earlier next time."
As well as Tyson is playing under center, it's bittersweet for the Indians and Slaughter, who started as quarterback all season until he suffered a torn ACL two weeks ago while playing defense against Newberry.
"We're sad to lose him, and sorry he'll miss all of basketball and probably baseball too," said Ulmer. The rehab period following surgery is about six to eight months.
"Knowing his work ethic, he'll rehab so intensely he'll be back before anyone expects."
Ulmer said Slaughter, a sophomore, is still very much an emotional leader on the team. Following his surgery last week, he returned to the sidelines.
"He's still an important part of this team," Ulmer emphasized.
"When he walked into the locker room tonight, the guys' faces all lit up."
Chiefland will need leadership, finishing and more if they hope to win out the season. Next week's contest is the last district matchup, a trek up to Lake Butler to play 5-3 Union County. The Tigers, like the Indians, are 1-2 in the district, and each would like to make a meal of the other to finish at .500 in their group.
"Union County is always good, and they look like they're starting to come together this year," Ulmer said. "This is their coach's second year there - we won last year - and we've got some film on them. They've come on strong the last few weeks."
To beat Union County, Ulmer says the Indians have to "play physical and execute. We've got to tackle hard, and play with a lot of heart and effort."
"After this week's practices," he said, "the kids really don't want to let anything slide."
Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Total
Chiefland 13 0 8 14 35
P.K. Yonge 7 0 0 7 14
C: Tommy Sheffield 5 yard run, Garrett Schmidt kick
C: Sheffield 60 run
P: Autis Gibson 20 fumble return, Anderson Oliva kick
C: Jamantye Thompson blocked punt in end zone, Sheffield run
P: Gibson 70 punt return, Anderson kick
C: Tyson 99 run, Schmidt kick
C: White 7 run, Schmidt kick