PAHOKEE — The Pahokee High School Blue Devils lost to the Madison County Cowboys 28-10 on Nov. 24 in the Class 1A state semifinal.
The game was a rematch of last year’s state semifinal, which the Blue Devils won 21-19. Pahokee coach Orson Walkes thinks that mistakes on the Pahokee side of the ball were the difference in this year’s match-up.
“The season just caught up with us,” said Walkes, “that’s the best way I can put it. All the little things that were going wrong throughout the season that we were able to mask, or just get by in certain games, we weren’t able to do in the game against Madison County.”
The Cowboys came into the game undefeated and were coming off blowout playoff victories against Union County on Nov. 11 and Dixon County on Nov. 17. Madison County won the Dixon game by a score of 62-7.
The Blue Devils were on the board first with a field goal from Ezekiel Hernandez in the final seconds of the first quarter. But the Cowboys responded in dramatic fashion with a 64-yard rushing touchdown from senior Derrick Staten.
Pahokee’s only other score would come on a 19-yard touchdown pass from junior Deante Nelson to junior Lavonski Williams, but the Blue Devils never held the lead again in the game apart from the early field goal.
Quarterback Nelson went 15-of-27 for 180 yards and a touchdown, Williams rushed for 69 yards on nine carries, and junior Jatarie Washington rushed for 29 yards on eight carries.
“I really do believe this was a winnable game,” said Walkes. “I feel like we had the talent to go all the way, and we kind of underachieved in my eyes. And I take full responsibility for that.
“We could have done a little more and been more opportunistic at times. We didn’t adjust as much as we should, and I take full responsibility for that part.”
With Pahokee’s season now over, the Blue Devils will part with 12 seniors from the 2017 school year.
But with over 20 players on the team, the core of the Blue Devils is made up of juniors.
Which bodes well for Pahokee’s chances in the 2018 season.
“2017 was a good ride,” explained coach Walkes. “Any time you can make a playoff run to the game before state, you can’t say the season was a complete flop.
“We just underachieved. Had a tough loss at Vero; we definitely could’ve done better there. I feel like we didn’t even show up at all in the Cocoa game.
“And in the Muck Bowl, even though we won the game in overtime, I feel like we could’ve performed better. Anytime we had a real challenge, I feel like we didn’t rise to the occasion.”