A resilient Ponte Vedra team clinched a home field berth in the upcoming FHSAA football playoffs by virtue of their exciting 38-35 victory over St. Augustine Oct. 25.
First year head coach Jeff DiSandros has often used the word “resilient” to best describe the current Shark squad, and his words certainly rang true in Friday’s contest.
The Sharks started the game without their top receiver, top running back, top place kicker, and starting a quarterback who began the season as a wide receiver. It went from bad to worse in the injury department when Tommy Zitello, their leading defensive player, went down with an injury that silenced the standing-room-only crowd at the 2:29 mark of the first quarter. After a delay of more than 20 minutes, while the medical staff on hand took every precaution with Zitello’s apparent head injury, the Sharks had an additional incentive to bring home the district title --- win it for Tommy Z.
Although there was plenty of scoring that often brought the crowd to their feet during the evening, the biggest cheer came early in the third quarter, when popular Ponte Vedra PA announcer Buddy Webster informed the crowd that Tommy Zitello was okay.
Once again, the Shark attack was led by their brilliant quarterback RJ Glod. The senior signal caller chewed up the St. Augustine defense by completing 21 of his 24 passes good for 364 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Yellow Jacket secondary couldn’t focus on stopping a single receiver as Glod’s 21 completions were shared almost equally by 5 glue fingered Sharks.
Aiden Lingenfelser, Keaton Thomas, Alex Madsen, and Noah Washington all caught 3 or more passes thrown from the accurate arm of Glod, each grabbing a toss that resulted in touchdowns. Oddly enough, Jacob Greer, who had not caught a pass in a varsity uniform until last week, did not catch a TD pass, but did lead PV receivers with 90 yards on 4 catches.
The three points difference separating victory from defeat came from back up place kicker Neil McDonough. With 7:27 left in the game, McDonough calmly kicked a short-range field goal squarely through the uprights to give the Sharks a 38-28 lead. Filling in for the injured regular place kicker Davis Ashcroft, McDonough had earlier converted on all 5 of his extra attempts. Perhaps his best effort on the evening went the shortest distance.
After Ponte Vedra tied St. Augustine at 21-21 with 2:32 left in the first half, McDonough executed a perfect onside kick that was recovered by Alex Madsen. With 0:16 showing on the clock before halftime, Glod hit Keaton Thomas from 28 yards out to give the Sharks a lead they would never relinquish.
The Yellow Jackets pulled within 3 points of the Sharks with 6:08 to go following a 15- yard TD pass from Sam Edwards to Jaden McDowell. It was then up to the Sharks to muster some first downs to run out the clock.
With their two leading ground gainers not even suited up for the game due to injuries, coach DiSandro rolled the dice and came up a winner. Needing a power runner to move the chains in a short yardage situation, DiSandro called on linebacker, and now a 4th string running back, Aiden Dunnigan. The Sharks were able to move the clock down to less than a minute remaining and forced St. Augustine to use all their time outs before turning over the ball on downs.
The Sharks forced a fumble on the second offensive play that was recovered by Zavier Chatman to clinch the victory. The 7-1 Sharks will close their regular season schedule tomorrow night when they travel to nearby Creekside for the 7 p.m. start.