• Crescent City defenders Kaleb Young (58) and Jontre Tape (58) try to break up a handoff in the Raiders’ Aug. 31 win over The Nation Christian at home. (CHRIS DeVITTO / Palatka Daily News)

This Isn't About Revenge

Williams tries to keep focus on this Wildwood team, not the one the Raiders didn't get to play last season

This week’s focus is not on revenge, according to Crescent City High School football coach Clarence “Pooh Bear” Williams.

OK, maybe just a little. But it can’t take away from the focus on his football team getting better and better each week, most notably an offensive line that came into the season with only one regular returning starter (right tackle A.J. Murphy) and has shown progress in the first three games.

“We work our butts off on getting better and seeing that work,” Williams said of the unit that includes Murphy, right guard Austin Hires, center Colin Mitchner, who had two games starting late last year on the line, left guard Kaleb Young and left tackle Nate Erkman. “They’re a very selfless bunch. They’re not in it for the newspaper clippings. They want what’s best for our team. They know it and they want to get better and I promise you we’re going to go as far as that group will take us.”

It may not have shown last week when quarterback Naykee Scott was sacked 10 times in Jacksonville University Christian’s 33-15 victory over the Raiders, but in fairness, Williams said that Christians’ front seven may be the fastest unit his team may see during the regular season.

“Looking back, I felt like we grew up against University Christian,” Williams said. “I’m pleased with our effort. We’re not going to play another University Christian-type team. We knew exactly what they were going to do, but honestly, their defense played so well. Their 11 guys were all on the same page more than our offensive 11 guys were.”

But it’s what Williams saw in the second half of Friday night’s loss to University Christian that has him excited to take on rival Wildwood this Friday in the Raiders’ first North Central Florida Football Conference game of the season. 

“I try not to be a screamer on Friday nights,” Williams said. “We put the work in during the week so I’m more laid back. We made some mistakes in that second quarter that got (University a 23-7) lead at halftime. We just corrected some things at halftime and I felt like our guys made the adjustments and played much better. I was excited about how we did in the second half.”

And Williams is hoping that momentum will take him into Wildwood to face a 1-2 Wildcats club, a 20-14 winner Friday over Mount Dora Christian. Like Crescent City, the Wildcats also lost to University Christian, their loss being 64-28. They opened the season with a 25-6 loss to Gainesville P.K. Yonge.

And that led to the resignation of head coach Joey McGuire, who had taken over the team from coach McKinley Rolle, who had led the Wildcats to a 9-1 season in 2017, but left to for JUCO Garden City (Kan.) as linebackers coach.

Offensive coordinator J.B. Bynum, who was a part of the coaching staff last year, took over.

Of course, last year, Crescent City and Wildwood were supposed to play at Wisnoski Field at Wiltcher Stadium, but Hurricane Irma ruined those plans, and when Crescent City athletic director Tim Ross pursued the Wildcats, Rolle and former athletic director Von Moreland, they balked at a makeup.

That worked against the Raiders. The Wildcats with their 9-0 regular-season mark, made the postseason, while Crescent City, saddled with losses to University Christian and Bradford, was kept out, which led to bad feelings.

And though Rolle and Moreland are no longer there, Moreland retiring the game that wasn’t is still fresh in the minds of many of the Raiders, including Scott, who ran for both Crescent City touchdowns last week against the Christians and got 88 yards of rushing, even if he was constantly harassed.

Still, the fact the Raiders missed out on a postseason spot is not Williams’ main focus.

Just the progress of the offense and, mainly, the offensive line.

“There’s no doubt that’s a hostile environment we’re going to,” Williams said. “But guys like Tyler Unruh, Dustin Carmichael, Bernard Wright, Kevin Williams, Henry Eckman and Naykee Scott played in Pahokee (in 2015), so they’ve been in a more hostile environment compared to where they’re going (Friday). Wildwood’s defensive line is quick, but we’ve practiced against that. We’re pretty aggressive ourselves defensively. Our (offensive) line is getting better each time out. They continue to pick things up and make adjustments. They’re getting to where they need to be.”

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