Sharks’ field goal at the buzzer is a winner


One didn’t have to be a football guru to predict a high scoring affair in Ponte Vedra’s game against Bartram Trail. A quick look at the season’s scoring statistics said all that needed to be said. Coming into the game, the Sharks had scored 242 points and allowed 97. The Bears: 207 scored and 119 allowed. It wasn’t difficult to predict a barnburner in the matchup and that is exactly what happened Friday evening at the Bears’ field. The Sharks had the game’s final possession and used it to claim a thrilling 48-45 victory on Chris Howard’s 42-yard field goal as time expired.

It’s hard to believe that a game featuring so much high-powered offense by both teams could have included any significant defensive plays but, in fact, the Sharks’ defense played a key role in the win. The Sharks scored in their first two possessions – the first on a 30-yard pass from Nick Tronti to JD Pirris and the second an 11-yard run by Hal Swan. The Bears answered with a drive of their own then a 93-yard kickoff return by Joey Gatewood for a touchdown that tied matters at 14-14.

Bartram took the lead 20-14 on the final play of the first quarter but the Shark defense in the person of JB Shepherd blocked the point after attempt. It was just the first of the Bears’ extra point problems.

The Sharks answered with a 79-yard, 14-play drive that ended with Tronti’s 4-yard pass to defensive back Andrew O’Dare, who was uncovered in the end zone to pull ahead 21-20. Ponte Vedra scored again on a Tronti keeper to take a 28-20 lead at halftime.

While both teams maintained their high scoring pace in the second half, point-after problems continued to plague the Bears. After their fourth touchdown, a two-point conversion attempt failed on Shepherd’s interception so Ponte Vedra led 28-26. When the Bears took the lead on their next possession, O’Dare stepped in front of that two-point pass attempt and the Sharks trailed 32-28, but only briefly.

The Sharks’ 80-yard touchdown drive featured both runs and passes to Swan, who ultimately scored on a 3-yard plunge. Ponte Vedra thus regained the lead 35-32 but that didn’t last long either. In fact, Bartram, using 12 plays to cover 80 yards, climbed back on top 38-35. Discouraged by problems with the point-after they went back to kicking the extra point but that didn’t work either – this time a bad snap led to another blocked kick.

Moments later, Swan busted a 46-yard touchdown run on Ponte Vedra’s ensuing possession to put the Sharks on top 42-38. Shark coach Matt Toblin then pulled off an October surprise by calling for an on-sides kickoff. Kicker Chris Howard executed the play perfectly and the Sharks offense went back on the field only to settle for a 27-yard field goal and a 45-38 advantage.

Bartram failed to take advantage of a second, but unsuccessful, on-sides kickoff. They drove to a first down at the Shark 12 but could not punch in the tying touchdown on a fourth down at the one-yard line.

An ineligible receiver downfield penalty against the Sharks denied them a key first down and forced a Tronti punt. The Bears didn’t waste this possession. They drove 40 yards to score, then surprisingly kicked the tying extra point with two minutes left to play.

Two minutes would be all the Sharks needed. Tronti connected with Marshall Few for 18 yards and a first down, then ran for another first himself. Two plays later, the clock was down to 1:30, with Ponte Vedra on the Bear 43 and facing a third and 10 situation. Tronti rolled out looking to pass, but instead kept the ball and picked up 17 yards.

Three plays later with the ball well within Howard’s field goal range on the 25 yard line, the Sharks let the clock run down to 1.8 seconds before calling time out. On came kicker Howard, holder Marshall Few and the rest of field goal team to attempt a fourth down, 42-yard field goal. The kick was perfect as time expired, sparking a wild celebration on the Ponte Vedra sideline.

The undefeated Sharks host Parker on Friday Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. in their final conference game.