YULEE - Traveling just south of the border, the Keystone Heights High's football Indians found the early sting of the Yulee High Hornets too much to bear. Even with holding the Hornets scoreless in …
YULEE - Traveling just south of the border, the Keystone Heights High's football Indians found the early sting of the Yulee High Hornets too much to bear. Even with holding the Hornets scoreless in the fourth quarter and racking up 10 points in the final stanza of the 2023 season, the Hornet swarm of 36 points in the first three quarters along with five Keystone turnovers was simply too much to overcome as the Indians would fall on the road, ending the playoff run at one game, 36-10.
“At this time of year, you have to accentuate your positives as much as possible,” said first-year head coach Steve Reynolds. “We played to our strengths. There is no sense running a bunch of stuff you’re not great at. That is a really good front (line) we went up against tonight. We’ve seen a few this year and that is one of them. The team made a few mistakes, and the coaches did as well. We’ll do some things better next year. We got aggressive on a first-down call and that one (turnover) is on me. They did a good job. These kids put in the work this year and turned this around. I’m so proud of them.”
With Reynolds taking over the helm from long-standing Keystone Heights legend Chuck Dickerson, the big shoes were a little snug at the beginning of the season before the right mix was introduced. Some standout stats were Reynolds’ regular season winning record of 6-4, making the playoffs in year one, and quarterback Baylor Ford throwing for over 1,000 yards this season, a stat not reached in over a decade with Keystone Indian football.
“One thing you have to say is we have great kids… Great kids,” said an emotional Reynolds. “These kids show up, and work hard, we see them all the time. They could have folded at 0-2 early this season, but they didn’t. They went to work and got better. They are such great kids and again, I’m just so proud of them.”
The Hornets went on offense, taking less than two minutes to drive the field and get a quick score on the board and two-point conversion, 8-0. After a third down Keystone interception, it looked bleak for the Indians with Yulee on the Indian 25-yard line. Some tough inside play forced the ball out of the Yulee runner’s hands with Keystone recovering. With a momentum shift, things were looking up for Keystone until another inside scrum, with all the players forcing a few more yards, the ball again was on the ground with Yulee recovering. With only 36 ticks until the end of the quarter, the Hornets notched another score. The Indians picked off a two-point conversion pass to hold the score to 14-0.
The second quarter didn’t start well for the Indians with an intercepted pass. The resulting drive was another Hornet score and two-point conversion, 22-0. With good field position from the kick return on the 32, the Indians again threw an interception. Six plays later Yulee posted another touchdown at 4:14, 29-0. The Indians would hold off the Hornets through the half, including a picked-off pass during a Yulee fake punt just before the half.
After the half break, the Indians took the second-half kickoff and had a well-organized drive moving the ball for over 6:00 finding themselves on the Yulee 26-yard line, but a sack of Baylor Ford stalled the attack. On a fourth down attempt, the long pass to Audru Seier was just outside of his stretch, turning the ball over on downs. The Hornets used nearly the rest of the quarter to methodically drive the field notching the final score at 1:31, 36-0.
The fourth quarter was all Indians as the team started a drive that fizzled out but had the punt of the season with the ball traveling half the field, taking a perfect Indian bounce, and downed at the one-yard line. With three downs and out, Yulee attempted the first punt which was blocked by several attacking Keystone players. With the ball out the back of the endzone for a safety, the Indians were on the board, 36-2 and a returning free kick.
The Yulee kick was returned to the 45 and set up a drive dominated by Cartez Daniels clipping off over five yards per carry. With a final carry to get the ball to the five-yard line, Daniels got dinged and had to step out. Colton Hollingsworth stepped in and carried the team the final five yards to score with 1:32 remaining in the game; just another sign of the team’s never-give-up attitude. The successful Hollingsworth two-point conversion put the final points on the board and closed the game, 36-10.
Reynolds finished with “Who else is going to do that? These kids are not going to give up. If there is time on the clock, they are ready to play ball.” Reynolds will lose 20 seniors, making way for many starting roles to open next season. With 11 sophomores and 7 juniors returning, Keystone Football could be set for an exciting 2024 season.