BETHLEHEM -- For a program accustomed to playoff berths, a 2-5 start to the season and several close losses created a sick feeling among the Apalachee Wildcats. However, they found the perfect tonic Friday night.
Riding the swift legs of Stanley Williams before a festive Homecoming crowd at R. Harold Harrison Stadium in Bethlehem, Apalachee (3-5, 3-5 Region 8-AAAA) pounced on Cedar Shoals (3-5, 3-5 Region 8-AAAA) early and cruised to a 28-13 victory.
"That felt really good", said Apalachee head coach Shane Davis, "Even though we've lost some games, we're 3-1 in our last four weeks. We've got so many kids that are hurt and we had so many kids that were out tonight. But we played hard football and had some kids step up and play awfully well. It was just a big win."
The Wildcats wasted little time establishing control of the game. On their opening drive, Williams tiptoed into the end zone on a 9-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 Wildcats lead with 9:53 remaining in the first quarter. Williams accounted for 49 of the 53 Apalachee yards on the drive.
On the next Apalachee possession, Williams took a handoff off the right side, bounced outside and streaked down the sideline 48 yards for his second TD to extend the lead to 14-0 with 4:15 left in first quarter.
After Cedar Shoals carved the lead to 14-6 on a 9-yard TD pass from Darius Jordan to Chris Middlebrooks, Apalachee quarterback Clint Ashe scrambled three yards for a TD with nine seconds left in the half to cap a 65-yard, The 11-play drive and give the Wildcats a 21-6 lead at intermission.
Following a 1-yard TD run by Cedar Shoals' Adrian Washington in the third quarter, Ashe lofted a long pass to Jermaine Smith, who sailed down the sidelines 60 yards for a TD to seal the 28-13 win with 7:49 left in the game.
Williams, who rushed for 102 yards in the first half, finished with 109 yards and two TDs for Apalachee. Ashe rushed for one TD and was 8-for-13 passing for 139 yards and one TD to lead the Wildcats.
Apalachee, which entered the evening still with an outside shot at the final playoff spot in Region 8-AAAA, travels to rival Winder-Barrow next week in "The Battle of Barrow".
"It's another region game and cross-town rival," Davis said of Winder-Barrow, which is led by former Apalachee assistant David Wagner, "Emotions will be high on both sides of the ball and we need to get ready. But when the whistle blows, it will be just another tough region game."