On Saturday morning, new Alabama running back commitment Derrick Henry tweeted that he thinks Florida verbal Kelvin Taylor is “the best to ever do it.”
And while few would argue that Taylor isn’t the better back of the two, Henry was simply unstoppable on Friday night.
In front of a nationally-televised ESPNU audience and a crowd that school officials said was over 5,000, the state’s top two rushers of all-time each carried the ball 35 times and didn’t disappoint.
Taylor put up 223 yards and the only score for Glades Day, but Henry rushed for 362 yards and all six of Yulee’s touchdowns in a 42-6 win.
“I thought both backs ran the ball really well,” Glades Day coach Pete Walker said. “Kelvin broke a lot of tackles, kept the chains moving and got us in scoring position. Henry is a big kid, and sometimes we just bounced right off of him when we had people there. Early on we did a pretty good job gang tackling, but I think we had too many guys out there trying to tackle him by themselves.
“It’s not easy to tackle him or Kelvin one-on-one. We had to0 many instances were that was the case. He’s going to Alabama for a reason. We knew it was going to be tough and it was. He’s a great running back, they have a fine team, and they whipped us.”
Henry credited his team following the victory and said he enjoyed going head-to-head with Taylor.
“My teammates and coaches did a great job,” Henry said. “The offensive line opened the holes, the fullback gave me great blocks and the receivers caught some balls. So that made things easier for me. That was the best our defense played all year. Kelvin’s a great back. He’s the No. 1 leading rusher in Florida and I know he runs hard. He still did really good in the game and it was fun battling against him.”
ESPN National Recruiting Director Tom Luginbill, who called the game, said Class 2A Glades Day was just outmatched against Class 4A Yulee.
“The difference tonight was they got worn down because they didn’t have the same caliber of athletes,” Luginbill said. “The one edge was they had some semblance of a passing game — even if it was just a couple plays here and there — that could offset the pressure being all on Derrick Henry’s shoulders. Once they got some creases opened up, they started wearing down Glades Day throughout the course of the game.”
Luginbill said Friday’s night broadcast was one of his most memorable because it featured two “fantastic” backs.
“They were both as advertised,” Luginbill said. “One just happened to be on a better team and had a little more balance that opened up more opportunities and took some pressure off the run game. You didn’t have that with Glades Day. They could not throw the football and were running against nine-man fronts the entire night. And Taylor still pulled off 223 yards.”
Florida coach Will Muschamp was in attendance to watch Taylor, who added to his state-record career totals in rushing yards (10,765) and touchdowns (166). He now has 9,221 yards since his freshman year and is 2,011 shy of the national record (11,232). His 1,584 yards from eight grade only count toward his state numbers.
“I just wanted to do the best I could to try to help my team win,” Taylor said. “We just came up short. They got a great team and a great defense, too. I believe I could have done better, but I did okay. I’m just going to keep working hard and keep getting better.”
After seeing Taylor live, Yulee coach Bobby Ramsay said the classification criticism he receives is ridiculous.
“I know what Derrick can do, but Kelvin’s phenomenal,” Ramsay said. “I feel bad the kid gets knocked for the level he plays on. He’s a stud on any level. Kelvin is just so quick. Incredible footwork. He can hit the hole or get outside and he’s hard to tackle. Derrick’s a little bit more a straight ahead guy.
“I hope this is just another step in the journey for both kids. If they play each other in an SEC title game, that would be fun. They’re gonna have great careers if they stay healthy.”
Photos by Will Dickey/The Times-Union