Gainesville drops rare game at home

Gainesville tight end Nick McGriff is tackled after making a catch for a first down on a third-and-15 play against Wakulla on Thursday.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, November 7, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 8, 2013 at 12:13 a.m.

For Gainesville High, Thursday night was simple Game No. 10 on the schedule with playoffs on deck. For Crawfordville Wakulla, it was much more.

It was the War Eagles' playoff game.

Sophomore quarterback Feleipe Franks tossed three touchdowns, two to his big brother Jordan, and linebacker Daniel Sanders returned an interception 25 yards for the clincher as Wakulla stunned the Hurricanes, 31-18, snapping Gainesville's eight-game win streak and 15-game run at Citizens Field.

For the Hurricanes (8-2), their season is not over. The real season begins next week against Land O'Lakes Sunlake in the Class 6A regional quarterfinals at Citizens Field.

For Wakulla (8-2), whose head coach Barry Klees was home recovering from surgery earlier in the week, the win eased the pain of missing out on the postseason. In their three-team District 2-5A, the War Eagles went 0-2 in league play, losing to Tallahassee Godby (No. 2 ranked) and Tallahassee Rickards (No. 8).

“Wakulla is a very good football team,” said GHS coach Mark Latsko. “We lost (running back) Dontarian (Evans) tonight, he went to the hospital and I don't think we will have him available next week. Worst-case scenario you play a great team in Week 11, you get a key guy go down and we lose the football game. Not really thrilled with what is going on right now, but we are in the playoffs next week.”

Emotions were high on both ends, but particularly for the 'Canes, who don't lose often at home and saw their hopes for a comeback end with Sanders' pick-six, the result of a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage against GHS quarterback Caelan Christian.

A 25-yard touchdown run by Tony James gave the 'Canes an 18-11 lead with 7:47 left in the third. The extra-point kick was wide.

The War Eagles would score the next three TDs, two from the arm of the 6-foot-5 Feleipe Franks, who already has offers from UF, UCF and Vanderbilt. He connected with Kieryn Parsons for a 50-yard score to tie the game at 18-all.

Then early in the fourth, Feleipe Franks again connected with his brother Jordan on a controversial 27-yard touchdown in the right corner of the end zone on a play that the receiver appeared to have his feet out of bounds. However, the official that was on the scene ruled it a score and Wakulla took a 25-18 lead.

That TD was set up after a GHS fumble in which Ahmad Ivey, on a punt return, waved off catching the War Eagle punt (also by Feleipe Franks), but an official ruled that Ivey had touched the ball, putting Wakulla at the GHS 27.

GHS was intercepted twice deep in its territory in the fourth. The first, by James, ended up not hurting the 'Canes. But the second, by Christian, did with three minutes to play.

“We came out and played a phenomenal second half of football, which is a testament to our head coach, who is not here, coach Klees and the resolve he has instilled into these young men who have gone through so much adversity this year,” said interim coach James Vernon. “We prepared for it like it was a playoff game. We had playoff intensity tonight. Our seniors were determined to go out winners.”

Early in the game, Wakulla certainly looked like the playoff team, dominating Gainesville, with Feleipe Franks tossing a perfect 40-yard pass to brother Jordan for the game's first score, then completing a pass for a two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead. A 32-yard field goal by Feleipe Franks made it 11-0.

A safety and 26-yard field goal by Alex Holloway closed the War Eagles' lead to 11-5.

A fierce pass rush by GHS on a Wakulla punt attempt resulted in Feleipe Franks trying to complete a pass deep in his own territory. The incompletion gave the 'Canes the ball at the Wakulla 5, and Christian tossed a TD pass to Kyle McGriff, putting GHS ahead 12-11 at the half.

Latsko wasn't pleased with his players' reactions at the end of the game.

“We needed to look at the big picture, we are in the playoffs next week,” he said. “We will get it fixed over the weekend. We had emotions running high.

“It is always disappointing to lose. This was a tough game with playoffs next week.”

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