MACCLENNY | In a season of sacks, Orlando Holland surprised even himself.
"I just came out and played," the junior defensive end said, "and that's what happened."
Northeast Florida's king of the pass rush transformed Friday night's Florida High School Athletic Association Region 1-5A football final into his own personal quarterback-flattening party, tallying seven sacks to lead Baker County past Wakulla 26-10 at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
His 2021 total: 25 sacks, and still not done.
The sight of Holland's No. 13 jersey brought decidedly bad luck for Wakulla's offense and quarterback Haden Klees, slammed to the turf with eight sacks — seven by the junior defensive end, one by sophomore linebacker Bryce Kazmierczak — in a show of defensive fire and force long to be remembered in the shadow of the giant Wildcat.
For this playoff run, maybe it's time for the home of the Wildcats, due west of Jacksonville, to change from Macclenny to Sackclenny.
"They've played tremendous all year, and they've really stepped their game up here in the playoffs," Baker County head coach Kevin Mays said. "To hold [West Florida] last week to 10, and this team that has scored all kinds of points in the playoff to 10, it's been great."
What the pass rush set up, Cam Smith finished off, rushing for three touchdowns to halt the War Eagles' march toward a third state championship and push the Wildcats into their third-ever state semifinal, joining their prior final-four visits in 1989 and 2017.
Baker County travels to Miami Central, depending on Central's outcome against Miami Killian in a Saturday night late game, or Merritt Island.
SUPER START FOR WILDCATS
One snap set the tone.
Cam Smith took the handoff from Noah Ray, followed the block of left tackle Ian Doyle and exploded down the sideline from 68 yards out for a 6-0 Baker County edge only 18 seconds into the game.
"The blocks were there, I made the read and got loose," he said.
The junior, who entered the night with 1,300 rushing yards on the year, worked solo in the backfield without usual power-back teammate Jamarian Baker.
Smith endured the extra workload, finishing with 138 yards on 21 rushes, while quarterback Ray added 33 yards on some well-timed designed runs that caught the War Eagles (10-3) off balance.
"I think it set the tone to them to say, 'Hey, we're here to play,'" Mays said. "We stayed true to our game plan."
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SMITH vs. SMITH
The battle of tailbacks was nearly a dead heat.
Wakulla tailback Zamarion Smith got his yards — 176 in total, churned out across 31 carries, for his 15th consecutive 100-yard game — but the Wildcats limited the damage for most of the night.
The one touchdown he did score, a 1-yard plunge to begin the second quarter and push Wakulla into a short-lived 7-6 lead, came on fourth-and-goal after Baker County middle linebacker Camilo Rollins had stuffed the War Eagles on first, second and third down from the 1.
The linebacker corps of Rollins, Kazmierczak and Toby Kinghorn, together with safety Ronnie Ellis, combined for more than 40 tackles. Rollins, too, was a human sledgehammer on the offensive side, pounding open holes for Cam Smith to score short-yardage touchdowns of 6 and 3 yards as the Wildcats (11-2) pulled away in the second half.
"You tell them, that's who that guy is, and you challenge them," Mays said. "And those guys stepped up to every bit of the challenge tonight."
INSTANT RESPONSE FROM WILDCATS
The Wildcats weathered a wild ride in the second quarter.
Only 103 seconds after Zamarion Smith's go-ahead score, Baker County reclaimed the lead when Ray passed short to Jaymodd Ruise and the receiver accelerated through the secondary from 39 yards out.
Baker County also survived an unusual moment shortly before halftime when officials ruled an apparent short pass as a fumble, awarding Wakulla possession at the Wildcats' 20 amid vociferous protests from the home crowd and the bench.
Kazmierczak stopped the War Eagles on first and second down and forced Wakulla to settle for a 40-yard Chase Linville field goal.
SLAMMING THE DOOR
Klees entered the night with 2,211 passing yards and 23 touchdowns, but the War Eagles' quarterback spent most of the evening scrambling for his life in the Wakulla backfield.
He completed 9 of 19 passes for 85 yards, but the senior defensive backfield of Ellis, Jamil Jones, De'Heaven Clark and Carlos Jefferson blanketed Wakulla's wideouts and restricted Wakulla to just two completions more than 10 yards.
On nearly every drop-back, Klees found a Wildcat in his face — Rollins, Kazmierczak, Avery Spurlock or especially Holland, who repeatedly broke through off the right edge.
Baker County finally gained breathing room in the third quarter. Ellis blocked a punt that Kazmierczak carried back inside the 35 to flip field position, and one possession later, Kazmierczak forced a Wakulla fumble inside the War Eagles' 25. Baker County recovered and the race was on, with Ray's quarterback keeper setting up Cam Smith's 6-yard sweep to the house behind a wrecking-ball lead block from Rollins.
Wakulla's last chance fell flat when Holland sacked Klees three times on the final drive.
"It's good and I'm going to enjoy it," Holland said. "I hope we go all the way."
Clayton Freeman covers high school sports and more for the Florida Times-Union. Follow him on Twitter at @CFreemanJAX.
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Baker County vs. Wakulla: FHSAA regional high school football final