The message to focus on one play, one game at a time resonates easily with the Ponte Vedra High football team.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put blinders on everyone trying to look past the current moment. Everyone’s learned that with the promise of relief too often is followed by the reality of continued frustration.
Second-year head coach Jeff DiSandro said returning to the field required a methodical, yet practical, approach. Like crawling from the darkness of a complete shutdown, the Sharks started slowly with limited weight room access. They expanded to light workouts with proper distancing and special drills. Most of the communication came through the team’s website.
But now it’s time to play. Finally. The pads are finally on, the schedule’s been set, and the season will start Sept. 11 when the Sharks travel across the Palm Valley Bridge to play Nease.
“I’m glad we finally have a football season,” DiSandro said. “It’s so great for these kids and this community. You have to have a lot of patience to get through this, and that’s why we’re going to take it one play, one week at a time. We talk about not getting ahead and managing our mistakes. No false starts. No illegal formations. Things like that.”
For most of the players, staying in the moment has become a way of life. That’s why DiSandro is confident Ponte Vedra will build on its 7-3 overall record, including regular season victories against Nease and St. Augustine, and a trip to the Class 6A playoffs.
Another reason is the return of quarterback Jacobi Myers.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior tore his left Achilles tendon in the season-opener last year against Nease.
“Dozens upon dozens of Division I schools are eager for him to put something on tape,” DiSandro said. “He can run it. He can throw it. It’s really a special story.”
Myers is so special, former college offensive coordinator Ed Zaurenbrecher, who’s coached at LSU, Florida, Marshall, Wake Forest and Rice, came out of retirement to work with the Sharks’ quarterbacks.
“I hope he will have the year we know he can have,” DiSandro said. “He’s fully healed. He’s ready to go. And he’s been fantastic so far.”
The Sharks are expected to go as far as Myers can take them. And he will get plenty of help from wide receiver Michael Olkiewicz and running back Campbell Parker, who put on nearly 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason, DiSandro said.
Wide receivers Alex Madson and Jack Polian, along with tight end Jacob Greer also will be featured in the passing game.
Defensively, tackles Evan Fleischer and Zavier Chatman return, and DiSandro said tackle 6-foot, 265-pound senior John Louis Mazzella “will be really disruptive” up front.
Sophomore kicker Davis Ashcroft already is getting looks from college scouts, who project him to be one of the premier kickers in the 2023 graduating classes, while junior punter William Henne returns.
“We’ve got a good team coming back,” DiSandro said. “We’re excited to get back on the field. We’re making sure we follow all the guidelines to keep everyone safe. It hasn’t been easy, but through it all, we haven’t heard anyone making an excuse. Life’s going to present you with challenges, and these Ponte Vedra kids are great. Throughout this whole thing, they were focused on a goal to be back on the field.”
To stay there, however, will take one step at a time.