Pahokee 41, Williston 17: Blue Devils advance to regional final

No Jateri Washington, no problem.

Washington, who rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns last week in leading Pahokee to a Muck Bowl victory over Glades Central, sat out the Blue Devils’ playoff opener Friday night with an ankle injury.

Enter sophomore TaMichael Boldin, who has played in the shadow of running backs Washington and LaVonski Williams all season. Boldin rushed for 188 yards on 13 carries, including a 35-yard touchdown, to lead the third-ranked Blue Devils to a 41-17 victory over Williston (5-6) in a Class 1A regional semifinal at Anquan Boldin Stadium.

In the regional final next Friday, Pahokee (7-2) will host Frostproof (7-4), which upset previously unbeaten Wildwood 59-38.

With Washington watching in street clothes, Pahokee’s running game didn’t miss a beat. The Blue Devils rolled up 375 yards on the ground, led by Boldin, Williams (66 yards) and DeVuntrae Hampton (57 yards, two TDs).

“I had to pick it up” with Washington out, Boldin said. “I had to make sure we got the job done. I was always prepared.”

Coach Orson Walkes said he had no hesitation about giving Boldin the ball in key situations.

“He’s just had to wait his turn,” Walkes said. “He’s always been capable of that. He practiced hard all week — good things happen when you work hard.”

The Blue Devils actually came out passing. On their opening drive, quarterback Deante Nelson completed 4-of-5 passes for 67 yards, ending it with a 25-yard scoring pass to Tyler Gilbert. Williams, a two-way player, then returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0, and Pahokee was never seriously threatened afterward.

Pahokee’s defense shut down Gerard Williams III, Williston’s highly touted running back. Williams, who gained more than 1,500 yards during the regular season, managed only 56 yards on 19 carries and was tackled for losses five times. The Red Devils (5-6) passed for 197 yards, but much of that came in the fourth quarter after the game was decided.

Walkes got a scare late in the game when Nelson was shaken up on a hit near the sideline, but he expects to have both Nelson and Washington available for the Frostproof game.

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