After starting the season with two losses — and no touchdowns from the offense — Nease High football coach Collin Drafts changed the team’s focus ahead of last week’s game against Yulee.
“We had six keys to winning games at the beginning, but we decided to make it just one practice,” the coach said after the Panthers used a 19-point third quarter and withstood a fourth-quarter rally by the Hornets in a 39-34 victory. “Our motto is P.I.E.— practice is everything. Our success would be determined by how well we do on the practice field.”
Ponte Vedra High used a different method to run past Menendez on the road — keeping quarterback Jacobi Myers and running back Campbell Park involved. Myers threw for 160 yards and two TDs and he ran for an additional 58 yards and a score, while Campbell rambled for 220 yards and a touchdown in 37-10 victory.
Nease improved to 1-2, while the Sharks, who’ve outscored their first three opponents 103-17 by only giving up just one offensive touchdown, now are 3-0.
Drafts said in addition to working through the delays and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been difficult to turn around an attitude that too often crumbles at the first sign of trouble.
“We’ve got kids who’ve worked extremely hard,” he said, “but we haven’t been able to point to any success. It’s hard on the defense when the offense doesn’t score in two games. We really needed to find some success.”
The Panthers’ first offensive touchdown of the season midway in the second quarter changed all that.
“The biggest thing was to get that first offensive touchdown,” Drafts said. “We threw a little screen pass to Dom Henry and he went 35 yards with it. All of a sudden, the momentum swung our way.”
Despite giving up 20 points in the fourth quarter, Nease hung on.
“You didn’t see their heads drop like they normally do,” Drafts said. “They kept fighting. That was a valuable experience.”
Now it’s up to the Panthers to build on their newfound success when they host Mandarin on Friday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. The Mustangs were the 2018 Class 8A state champions, but they’re off to a 1-2 start after losing back-to-back games against Bartram Trail and Lee.
Ponte Vedra also will be at home on Friday. Their homecoming game against Matanzas (1-1) is schedule for a 7 p.m. kickoff.