Led by head coach Scott Owen, the Ponte Vedra Sharks Junior Pee Wee team has capped off a perfect 7-0 regular season and earned a No. 1 seed for the conference playoffs.
The Sharks powered their way to this unblemished record using a scheme similar to that of our local NFL team: ground-based offense, control of the clock and stifling defense. Unlike the Jaguars, however, the PV squad has been consistent from week to week, and has only given up 12 points the entire year.
The road to the postseason began Sept. 23, when PV put its 3-0 record on the line at Oakleaf Black. The Knights threw everything in their playbook at the Sharks, attacking both in the air and on the ground, hoping to generate chunks of yardage and keep the voracious PV defense on its heels.
Nevertheless, Oakleaf was able to manage only one explosive play, a 20-yard gain on a counter, and simply could not light up the scoreboard. For its part, PV unveiled a high-percentage, intermediate-range passing attack to complement its patented “ground and pound” offense.
Tight end Jack Pelot was the primary beneficiary, leading the team with four receptions, including a fourth quarter touchdown from 20 yards out. This score emphatically put the game away, yet the Knights never really threatened. The game’s other TDs were rushes, contributed by Zach Martus, Ben Burk and Corbyn Fordham respectively, making the final score 23-0.
Another away contest loomed for the Sharks on Sept. 30, though an easier road trip to the recreational complex in Jacksonville Beach. Unlike Oakleaf, Jax Beach physically challenged Ponte Vedra at the line of scrimmage, fought to keep the game competitive and really forced the Sharks to earn a 12-0 victory.
The passing attack that had proved effective against the Knights never got on track against the Jaguars. Shark quarterbacks combined for four pass attempts, with three incompletions and one interception. In a by now-familiar scenario, what won the day offensively for PV was a methodical, bruising ground game that produced 165 yards and two TDs, one by Burk and one by Bennett Baumgartner.
The relentless nature of the rushing attack was personified by Fordham’s performance. Of his five total carries, four produced critical fourth down conversions in which he attacked defenders and refused to go down until he had bulled past the first down marker.
The Sharks’ sixth contest was a Hurricane Irma “make-up” game held at a neutral site (St. Augustine) against Fleming Island Blue, the sole remaining unbeaten team in the First Coast Conference. Spoiler alert—the much-anticipated dogfight between the top-ranked squads never materialized, and PV won easily.
The Sharks were unintimidated from the outset, forcing a quick Eagle three-and-out to start the game and then, after a change of possession, ringing up a 38-yard Fordham rushing touchdown on the team’s first offense snap. The PV defense played an exceptional game, led by Fordham with two tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries. Linebacker Maddox Bostic had four tackles (including three for loss) and a fumble recovery of his own.
Fleming Island did not threaten the end zone until late in the game when the score was out of reach. Noteworthy on the offensive side of the ball was exemplary play in the trenches. The Shark offensive line consistently blew the Eagle defenders off the ball and opened large holes for ball carriers. Backs would generally be 4 to 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage before they were touched by a defender. Baumgartner led all rushers with 75 yards; rushing TDs came from Fordham (two) and Burk, rounding out the score at 20-6.
Homecoming at Cornerstone Park on Oct. 14 was a festive affair, and the Sharks did not intend to let Orange Park spoil the proceedings, nor their perfect record. The Raiders, having scouted PV, were wise enough not to run “up the gut,” and into the teeth of the defense.
They therefore mixed passes with runs outside and had some moderate success with that strategy, but did not generate enough consistency to mount a sustained drive, let alone put points on the board. The Sharks were able to notch their fifth shutout of the season, by a score of 19-0. Baumgartner was again the leading rusher with 71 yards and two first half scores, while wide receiver Griffin Owen added an insurance TD late in the game on a well-executed 9-yard jet sweep. The defense was paced by defensive backs Joe Mahoney (five tackles and one pass broken up) and Brian Case (second interception of the season).
Coach Owen, rightfully proud of his players and coaches, looked ahead to the postseason, commenting, “Between our kids and our staff, I like our position right now. We are playing well, but have the ability to make the adjustments and corrections needed to clear up any mistakes we detect.”
The top-seeded Sharks open postseason play on Oct. 21 in the conference semifinals, with a rematch against No. 4 seed Orange Park at Jax Beach.