Nease’s game plan to stick to basic plays against Oakleaf last Friday was born out of necessity, not purpose.
The Panthers were without eight starters, including quarterback Will Carn and running back Taliek Golphin, so they were forced to be conservative on offense in a 35-14 road loss.
Since Nease opens the Class 8A playoffs at Oakleaf on Nov. 13, a “vanilla” offense means the Knights weren’t able to learn a lot for the rematch.
“We didn’t approach it like that, but that’s how it played out,” coach Collin Drafts said. “We had seven or eight starters down, so we were forced to be vanilla on offense. Due to the circumstances, we had to be very basic.”
Oakleaf jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but the Panthers fought back to trail 21-14 at halftime.
“I was very pleased with how we responded,” Drafts said. “They jumped on us quick. We fought the whole game. It was a positive step, and I’ve already seen a big difference at practice this week.
“We’re a very young team. But these players are working hard to get better.”
The same players aren’t expected to return when Nease closes out its regular season at Atlantic Coast on Friday night.
At the same time, Ponte Vedra High’s slide continued with a 44-14 loss at St. Augustine. The Sharks opened with a 5-1 record, but they’ve now lost two in a row.
Adding to the disappointment was the sudden resignation of head coach Jeff DiSandro and the loss of star quarterback Jacobi Myers to injury three weeks ago.
Ponte Vedra will finish the regular season Friday night with a trip to Creekside. The Sharks then will play at the winner of the Columbia-Englewood game in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs on Nov. 23.
Drafts said the 2020 season will forever be remembered for the upheaval created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus forced county officials to redraw schedules and open the playoffs to all teams, regardless of records.
“This has been a very tough time,” Drafts said. “If we continue in this direction, we will be all right.”
Drafts said he hopes he will have Carn (55 of 91 passing with five touchdowns) and Golphin (86 carries for 440 yards and two TDs) back on the field for the playoffs.
If so, Nease will be able to open its playbook.