The short bus trip to St Augustine High School for last Friday’s football game took Ponte Vedra about 30 minutes. That was a lot longer than it took the Sharks to score their first touchdown in their 21-14 win against the Yellow Jackets.
The Sharks came off the bus fired up and ready to play. Quarterback Jack Murrah engineered a nine-play, 63-yard opening drive that ended with a seven-yard screen pass to Campbell Parker. Key in the drive was an 18-yard reception by Reese Russi.
After the teams traded punts, the Jackets tied matters at 7-7. Moments later, Ponte Vedra came up with the play of the game. St Augustine had the ball at the Ponte Vedra 10-yard line and threatened to take the lead when Jack Thomas picked off an errant pass and returned it 45 yards to midfield. Russi’s second long reception gave the Sharks a first down at the Jackets’ 40-yard line. Murrah then handed off to Parker, who broke free down the right side for a 37-yard touchdown and a 14-7 advantage. With the Sharks’ hard driving running back Mark Calvin injured and not dressed, Parker assumed most of the run duties. carrying 17 times for 62 yards.
A breakdown in the Sharks’ secondary allowed the Jackets to score the tying touchdown seconds before the half ended.
Ponte Vedra’s defense used the halftime break to make some key adjustments, and the changes defensive coach Mannie Wellington put in made a dramatic difference in the final 24 minutes. The Sharks’ front seven, led by Emory Kingry, Peter Merlini, Will Frank, Garrett Griffin, Shane Bloss, Aiden Dunnigan and Josiah Haygood, took turns pressuring the young St Augustine quarterback.
The Sharks mounted the winning touchdown drive with minutes left in the third quarter. They started at their own 48-yard line with Jacobi Myers under center. Myers rushed first for 12 yards, then 36 more. A pair of passes to Logan Conway and another completion to Russi gave the Sharks a first-and-goal at the Jackets’ 7-yard line. Two plays later, Murrah came on and found Nick Pirris all alone in the back of the end zone to give the Sharks a 21-14 lead.
St Augustine couldn’t deal with the hard charging, inspired, second-half Ponte Vedra defense. Play after play, the St Augustine QB was pressured or sacked.
Ponte Vedra’s leading tacklers were Cole McCormick with 14 total tackles (solo and assisted), Bloss with 10 total, Max Schalit with eight and Kingry with six total. Frank had four hurries and Merlini had three.
The Sharks (2-0) return home to host Westside (0-3) on Friday for Senior night at 7 p.m.