Nature Coast Season Stopped in Regional Final
By Danny Aiello Jr
Bilal Ally, not DeShawn Smith stole the spotlight Friday, as Clay High School downed Nature Coast by a score of 40-28 in the 5A Regional Friday up in Green Cove Springs.
For the Sharks (12-1), it was a reversal of roles, as the best player on the field that night wasn’t wearing Carolina Blue.
Ally carried a mind-numbing 52 times for 322 yards and three scores to help the Blue Devils (10-3) advance to the final four against Wakulla.
Nature Coast found themselves behind early as Ally would score on a 2-yard run, however, a Smith fumble would allow Clay a second straight possession.
A touchdown run of 15 yards would be next up for Ally as the Blue Devils had a 14-0 lead and the Sharks were searching for answers.
The answer would be Brian Haygood, who pulled back on the read option and ran 75-yards down the sideline for the score.
After a punt, Nature Coast would tie the game behind the hands and legs of Smith. A one-handed catch of 43-yards with a defender draped on him followed by a 11-yard run on 4th-and-goal would see the game squared at 14.
Jaylan Jenkins put the Blue Devils back in front on a quarterback keeper from 15-yards out, and if not for a stop on 4th-and-1 from the Sharks 1-yard line, Clay would have went into the half with more than a 20-14 lead.
The second half started how the visitors imagined with Smith scoring on 4th-and-goal from the 10-yard line, giving Nature Coast a 21-20 lead.
Jenkins and Ally would have none of that, however, as the Blue Devil duo would score on runs of one and 14 yards respectively.
The fourth quarter would see the Sharks inch closer as Haygood dropped a dime into the hands of Smith for a 64-yard catch and run.
“That’s backyard football.” Sharks head coach Justin Worden said. “Throw it up there and let him make something happen.”
After a goal line stand from the 26-yard line due to penalties, the Sharks had a chance to tie the game but went three-and-out without Smith touching the ball.
“We had seen some things on film.” Worden said. “We just didn’t execute.”
Clay would ice the game with a Colin Wilson 1-yard touchdown run with 45 seconds left, all but ending the season for the Hernando County squad.
Smith finished with 116 yards on 18 carries and two rushing touchdowns giving him 3,671 rushing yards and 60 rushing touchdowns this season. Both of those marks are leading the Nation.
Smith also finished with the 3rd most touchdowns in a single season in High School history according to the National Federation record book.