Bears win thriller over Red Devils

Williston's quarterback Stephen Cochlin is tackled by the Dixie County defense. The Bears of Dixie County beat the Red Devils of Williston 38-32.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, September 20, 2013 at 7:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 20, 2013 at 7:25 p.m.

WILLISTON — Entering Friday night's District 7-1A clash between unbeatens Dixie County and Williston, statistics pointed to a likely showdown between the Red Devils' offense with its 43-point average and the Bears defense, which was allowing just 4.7 ppg.

So, what wound up being the big story? Special teams, of course.

Dixie County's come-from-behind 38-32 victory saw Williston's Devon Webb return a punt 45 yards for a touchdown and Tay Hammonds take a kickoff 80 yards for another score. But it was a bizarre touchdown by the Bears late in the first half that turned a potential blowout by the home team into a heated contest.

Following Hammonds' return, WHS (3-1, 0-1) found itself ahead 24-6 with 1:25 remaining in the second quarter. The Red Devils then recovered an onside kick (special teams, again) and eventually moved the ball 20 yards to DCHS's 25.

There, Jorge Deciderio, who had already made a 40-yard field goal, came out to attempt a 42-yarder. But, he didn't hit the ball well, and speedy Bears senior Shaquille Mitchem caught the miss and returned it 88 yards for a touchdown with one second remaining. A two-point conversion run by James Bowers followed, and within a 10-second span, the game had an 11-point swing.

"That was a huge moment," Williston coach Jamie Baker said. "We work on extra points and field goals two or three times a week, and we try to teach them that when you hear that (not-right-sounding) thud, you've got to cover it.

"We didn't do that there, and to Dixie's credit, they were ready for it and their guy took off."

Even with that momentum shift, the Red Devils still led 24-14 at the half.

That's when Bears coach Brent Wilkerson called on his team to play with "guts" in the final two quarters.

Dixie County (4-0, 1-0) responded quickly when Florida cornerback commitment Duke Dawson took his first snap of the game at quarterback and ran 60 yards for a touchdown (following it up with a Gator chomp). The two-point run by Bowers made the score 24-22 WHS.

The Red Devils answered quickly when quarterback Stephen Cochlin followed up a 43-yard jaunt by Webb with a 9-yard scoring run (and subsequent two-point conversion by Keith Neal) to take a 32-22 lead with 2:35 remaining in the third quarter. At that point, WHS had four touchdowns (two on special teams, a 52-yard fumble recovery by Tad Donald and Cochlin's score) and just three first downs against the Bears' staunch defense.

The rest the game was all Dixie County.

The Bears' offensive line took over in the late third and throughout the fourth quarter, opening holes for Julian Robinson and Kendall Copeland to rush for touchdowns of 81 and 23 yards, respectively.

"I'm proud of how our guys stuck in there," Wilkerson said. "Williston has a good football team that is well-coached. They had us on the ropes, and it's a credit to our kids that they kept their heads in it and kept fighting."

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