Nease going with run game out of necessity – and it’s working

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Nease used its powerful running game to earn a 49-37 homecoming victory over Creekside last Friday night, and may have to stick with it this week as the Panthers try to get quarterback Preston Staples back to 100 percent.

In the win over Creekside, three Nease players each ran for more than 100 yards as the Panthers finished with 391 total rushing yards. Nease standout running back Jareem Westcott finished with 179 yards rushing, Ashton Wood had 110 rushing yards and 30 receiving yards and tight end Zach Sheffer ran for 110 yards.

Staples, who has been dealing with a knee injury, came in for one snap and threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Wood. Nease coach Tim Krause said Staples has been able to practice the last week and a half and that his injury is slowly healing, so it’s difficult to say how much the passing game will be a part of the plan this week.

“I think we go into every week as a staff and evaluate what we need to do to win,” he said. “Sometimes that means you have to throw a little bit more, and obviously, last week, we felt like we had the advantage up front, and we can run the ball downhill pretty consistently. We’re just going week-by-week and whatever we need to do to get first downs, we’re going to do.”

Creekside’s offense started strong in the first half scoring 30 points, but the Nease defense shut down the Knights and standout quarterback Tai Lavatai in the second half.

“I was really proud of how our team reacted and responded and took some adjustments and ran with them in the second half,” Krause said. “We gave up seven points in the second half to a team I think is really talented on offense. I feel holding them to seven points in the second half was a big win for us.”

Krause believes each game gives the team more opportunity to improve.

“Every time you struggle a little bit, it’s as a chance to learn and grow and get better, so hopefully we take the things we need to correct and get better at it this week,” he said.

And this week’s game against Matanzas may give the Panthers even more insight on what they need to work on.

“Coach [Robert] Ripley has done a great job down there building their program,” Krause said. “They’re a really good football team, really sound in a lot of different phases. … They’re a team that plays the style of football that I think will prepare us for district play, so we’re excited to go down there.”

The Panthers (2-2) play at Matanzas in Palm Coast on Friday at 7 p.m. The Pirates (2-1), who have won two in a row, made the playoffs for the first time last season.

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