The Ponte Vedra Sharks rolled to their ninth straight victory of the 2016 season with an easy 48-14 over Creekside on Senior Night at the Shark Tank Nov. 4, posting their first undefeated season in school history.
Ponte Vedra scored on its first three possessions to lead 21-0 before the visitors were able to make a single first down. Quarterback Nick Tronti engineered a 10-play, 65-yard drive that ended on Hal Swan’s 1-yard plunge. On the drive Tronti completed passes to Swan and JD Pirris and ran for 27 yards himself.
The Shark offense again took advantage of the pass to score touchdown number two. This time, Tronti’s go-to receivers were Marshall Few, Swan and Jarrett Stepp. Few capped the drive when he outraced the Knight defender to the left corner of the end zone and pulled down a perfect throw from his quarterback.
Ponte Vedra took advantage of a Creekside personal foul and an off-sides penalty on its next possession to move ahead 21-0 with more than two minutes left in the first quarter.
The visitors finally managed to get their offense in gear moving 80-yards in six plays for a score then added the two-point conversion. The remarkable ease with which the Knights – who scored just 80 points in eight games – were able to score had to raise some concerns about the vulnerability of the Sharks defense for the upcoming playoffs.
In answering the next Creekside drive, Ponte Vedra did them one better, moving 80-yards in four plays, the last a remarkable 57-yard zig-zag jaunt by Swan that left a collection of would-be tacklers grasping at air and Ponte Vedra leading 28-8. Before Creekside could mount another easy drive, Ponte Vedra’s Mike Duncan pounced on a Knights’ fumble at the Shark 30 and the team of Tronti and Few made them pay. Few made a spectacular diving catch good for 30-yards then three plays later duplicated the feat for 30 more yards. Tronti ended the drive by hitting junior receiver Rani Toma for the Sharks seventh TD.
Turnovers continued to plague the Knights when Noah Solaun intercepted a Creekside pass. Backup quarterback Jack Murrah came on for the Sharks and moved the team into Chris Howard’s field goal range. Howard was perfect on the 44-yard attempt and the Sharks led 38-8.
The Shark defense forced a three-and-out Creekside punt that made the Ponte Vedra defensive coaching staff less nervous about things. Running backs Zach Walton and Zach King teamed with Swan on the ensuing Shark drive to pick up 52-yards, then Tronti sneaked over from three-yards out up the advantage to 45-8.
Ponte Vedra’s John Tyler broke up a fourth-down Creekside pass to kill a Knight drive but the Sharks weren’t able to capitalize. By this time each team was making use of backup players. The Knights would add a touchdown but not the PAT and Ponte Vedra responded with another Howard field goal—a 30-yarder.
Ponte Vedra will host Yulee in the first round of the District 5A play-offs on Friday, Nov. 11 with a 7:30 p.m. start time. Despite a 7-3 record, Yulee represents a significant challenge, boasting 230-pound running back Jamari Peacock. The Sharks offense has the apparent advantage in points scored with 371 compared to the Hornets’ 286. The Sharks score both on the ground and through the air. Yulee offense is centered on a ground attack behind their powerful running back. Both defenses have some vulnerability. Ponte Vedra has allowed 170 points, Yulee 158. It looks to be another barnburner.
In the other District 5A playoff game, Bishop Kenny plays Ribault. The winner of this game will meet the winner of the Sharks/Yulee matchup.