Last Friday night’s football game against the Oakleaf Golden Knights of Class 7A was anticipated to be quite a challenge for the Ponte Vedra Sharks, who play in FHSAA’s Class 5A. The challenge – if there was one – came in the second half as the Knights tried to come back from 27 unanswered Ponte Vedra points scored in the first 24 minutes of the game. The visitors weren’t able to recover from several costly turnovers and fell to the Sharks 41-24.
Ponte Vedra moved easily 81 yards in their first possession to take a 7-0 lead. The big play was Nick Tronti’s pass to Marshall Few, good for 47 yards. Tronti finished the drive with a scrambling pass to Jake Maguire for 10 yards and the touchdown,
When the Knights failed to pick up a first down in their possession and had to punt, they were surprised when Hal Swan, the diminutive but dominating Shark running back, slipped through the line to block the punt. Jacob Reeves picked up the ball and scored, to pad Ponte Vedra’s lead.
The Knight offense turned the ball over again on their next possession when JB Sheppard intercepted an underthrown pass. Ponte Vedra converted the turnover to points on Chris Howard’s 41-yard field goal and led 17-0 with more than five minutes left in the quarter.
The visitors’ offensive struggles continued with a short punt to give the Sharks control of the football near mid-field. Tronti turned the poor punt into a touchdown when Swan caught a screen pass and raced 30 yards to score.
Oakleaf fumbled the ball away for yet another turnover and the Sharks turned that into another Howard field goal and a 27-0 advantage with less than two minutes left in the half.
The Knights finally straightened out their offense to mount an 81-yard scoring drive as the half ended.
Oakleaf took the second half kickoff and moved to the Shark 25-yard line before running out of steam and settling for a field goal. Ponte Vedra matched that field goal with a 44-yard touchdown pass from Tronti to Zach Walton.
Before Ponte Vedra scored again, they would surrender a pair of touchdowns, making the score 34-24 and adding an element of excitement to what was previously a lopsided contest. Tronti kept Shark fans from becoming too uncomfortable, when he combined with Maguire for 45 yards, then handed off to Swan for a four-yard score to seal the win 41-24.
Ponte Vedra, with a record of 3-0, hosts Wolfson in a conference game at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16.