The Ponte Vedra Sharks extended their season unbeaten streak to eight games, with a 33-14 district win over the Terry Parker Braves on Senior Night at the Shark Tank last Friday.
While it was not the Sharks’ best performance of the year, it served to clinch the District 5A Class 4 title. As a result, the Sharks will open the post-season at home against an opponent still to be determined. Perhaps the lackluster performance was simply a let down following an emotionally draining 48-45 win over Bartram Trail the week before on a 42-yard field goal in the game’s final seconds.
Whatever the reason, Ponte Vedra missed a pair of chip shot field goals in the first quarter but Duncan Van Kouteren was able to block the Parker punt on the visitor’s second possession to earn a safety and a 2-0 lead for Ponte Vedra at the six-minute mark.
Following the safety, the Sharks controlled the ball for 12 plays and a first and goal from the Parker six before settling for their second field goal attempt of the game, this from 34 yards. Like the previous miss, this one sailed wide right.
The Shark defense kept the Braves bottled up in their end of the field and the ensuing short Parker punt gave Ponte Vedra the ball and a short field to work with. Once again, Ponte Vedra had to settle for another field goal attempt. Chris Howard’s kick was true and the Sharks took a 5-0 lead as the first quarter ended.
Things got back to normal after Ponte Vedra took over on downs. Nick Tronti and Hal Swan collaborated on a successful 20-yard pass, Swan ran for eight then bulled over from the five to put the Sharks on top 12-0. The half ended with the teams trading unsuccessful possessions.
Parker used the long ball and a two-point conversion to close the gap to 12-8. But the Sharks answered with a 15-play drive. The most exciting in the series – an 80-yard run from scrimmage by Swan for an apparent touchdown – was all for naught when Ponte Vedra was flagged for holding. Still the drive continued. On a third and 18 from midfield, Swan ripped off a 40-yard run to the Parker 10. The next play, Tronti hit his tight end Kit Connelly in the end zone for a touchdown, making the score a little more respectable for the Sharks at 19-8.
Ponte Vedra’s defense continued to make matters difficult for the Braves. After quarterback sacks by Van Kouteren and Peter Merlini, JB Shepherd picked off a pass and Tronti turned the possession into a 19-yard touchdown to JD Pirris, bumping the Shark lead to 26-8.
Ponte Vedra got burned on yet another long pass play for the other Brave score but Andrew O’Dare intercepted their two-point attempt. O’Dare has made a habit this season of picking off two-point conversion passes.
After Ponte Vedra’s Noah Solaun recovered the Braves’ not surprising on-sides kick-off, Tronti led his team to its final touchdown. It came on a 15-yard pass to Jake Maguire and made the final score 33-14.
Halftime was devoted to the crowning of the Homecoming King and Queen, Molly Voytecek and Davis Massey.
The Sharks host Creekside in the final regular season game on Friday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. The Knights, who play in District 7A, have been struggling all season; they stand at 0-8 for the year, having scored just 80 points while allowing 346.