Week Four: Knights’ miscues costly, lose 36-20 in district opener
punt. They would drive to their own 35 yard line with time for one last long pass. The "Hail Mary" would be caught by Rontrez Morgan and he would have running room until Clay defensive backs Jeremy Peters and Cornelius Richardson would make the game saving tackle just 10 yards short of the endzone to preserve the win for the Blue Devils.
In the classic matchup of speedy offenses and rugged defenses, the Knights got the lead 20-14 in the third quarter off a touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Jordan Johnson to freshman wideout Rontrez Morgan. Clay would strke right back with tail back Jake Turner blasting a 72 yard scoring run to reset the score in Clay’s favor 21-20 with four minutes left in the third period.
After falling behind 7-0 in the first period off a long touchdown run, both teams traded punts before Oakleaf got their offense in rhythm as Johnson would find receiver Nick Shaheen for two first down receptions to keep the chains moving for the Knights. On the next play running back, Aaron Duckworth would score from 20 yards out to tie the game at 7-7 late in the first quarter.
Clay would immediately answer with their running game to go ahead 14-7 early in the second quarter.
The Black Knights would answer right back as returnman Nick Roberts would take the kickoff to midfield coupled with a Clay penalty to start the Knight drive on the Clay 35 yard line. Sophomore running back Tyrell Brown would take over from there with a 15 yard run to put Oakleaf in the red zone. Brown would score on the next play from 20 yards away to pull the Knights within one point at 14-13. Clay’s Jeremy Peters would make a spectacular diving block on the extra point attempt to preserve the Blue Devils lead. Both defenses would keep each other scoreless for the remainder of the first half that included three punts and a missed 40 yard Clay field goal.
In the second half, Oakleaf would start the third quarter a focused team on offense as Duckworth would lead a drive on the ground into Clay territory. Johnson would convert a third down run up the middle by executing a beautiful fake hand off then run for 25 yards to the Clay 25 yard line. Later, on another third down, it would be Johnson finding fellow freshman Rontrez Morgan for a 22 yard touchdown pass that included an incredible spin move by Morgan to give Oakleaf its first lead at 20-14 midway through the third quarter.
Oakleaf’s turn came to score as they would put together a solid drive of their own down to the Clay nine yard line. A drive that included a long fourth down reception by Nick Shaheen to give the Knights first and goal from the Blue Devil nine yard line. On third down, a sack would force an Oakleaf field goal which closed the gap to 28-23.
A Wildcat halfback option passed put Clay up 35-30 with minutes left in the game.
By Randy Lefko
JACKSONVILLE-Oakleaf High practically gave 3-7A opponent Atlantic Coast the keys to the end zone with two horrible punt snaps, a botched onsides kick recovery, and numerous dropped passes shooting the Knights in their own feet en route to a 36-20 district loss Friday night in Jacksonville. The loss puts Oakleaf at 2-2, 0-1 in district play.
"Both losses came down to special teams and that’s on me," said Knights coach Derek Chipoletti, referring to a muffed punt and botched PAT in the Knights’ 15-14 loss to Orange Park. "The buck stops with me. We have to get it fixed."
Even with the untimely miscues throughout the game, including the opening kickoff, fumbled, but not lost, by Knights returner Nick Roberts, Oakleaf was effective in moving the ball behind quick pass and runs from two freshman; quarterback Jordan Johnson and wideout J.C. Flowers and strong running by senior tailback Aaron Duckworth.
"Hopefully, we can fix the mistakes and be competitive in our district," said Chipoletti. "All I know is to work hard to correct the mistakes."
On the opening drive, despite gains of nine and six yards by Duckworth and an 11-yard quick slant to wideout Nick Shaheen that got the Knights to the Atlantic Coast 25, a miscommunication between quarterback Jordan Johnson and center Ryan Broskie caused a shotgun snap that hit Jordan in the chest and bounced into Stingrays hands.
Oakleaf’s hard-hitting defense stepped right up behind linebacker Shaq Quarterman and defensive back Mackinson Gede who combined on four hits to force a Stingray punt at the Atlantic Coast 43.
Johnson moved the Knights downfield quickly with two more slants to Shaheen and a seven yard run by sophomore running back Keylan Brown to put the Knights in scoring position at the Atlantic Coast 35. A third quick slant landed in Atlantic Coast linebacker Traevaris Ferrell’s hands and finished with Ferrell rumbling 65 yards to paydirt.
Down 7-0, Oakleaf continued to move the ball with Duckworth bashing 12 yards from the Oakleaf 28 to the 40 to set up Jordan hitting Flowers on a sideline route that finished 35 yards later at the Stingray five yard line. Jordan would finish the deal with a plunge up the middle to knot that game at 7-7 as the first quarter ended.
"I have full confidence in Jordan’s abilities as a quarterback and he showed why," said Chipoletti. "He kept his cool after the first fumble."
Oakleaf got big defensive stops from Gedes and end Lamar Brown to halt the Stingrays at midfield, but Jordan could generate no offense from the Knights five yard line to set up punter Xavier Lewis deep in the end zone. The punt snap by center Parker Pillsbury would sail over Lewis’ head to score a two-point safety for Atlantic Coast and a 9-7 lead.
On the ensuing punt, Atlantic Coast would strike quickly with a 58 yard scoring pass that got tipped by Roberts.
Down 16-7, Oakleaf did not succumb to the momentum blast with Jordan calmly hitting Flowers again with a slant pass at the Oakleaf 44 that Flowers sidestepped two tacklers and took the distance to the end zone to put the score at 16-14 at 6:26 left in the half.
Strong defense behind linebacker Demani Kennebrew, Roberts and Darrion Owens kept Atlantic Coast at bay until a flurry of missed tackles on a 25 yard run to the Knight 45, a late hit by linebacker Justin Todd and a facemask pushed the Stingrays to a first down at the Knight 10 yard line where a quick pass scored the first half 22-14 with 2:52 to go.
Five incomplete passes thwarted Oakleaf’s ensuing drive but it was Brown scooping up a Stingray fumble at the 20 that put the Knights back into scoring position at the Stingray 15. An Oakleaf penalty left the Knights with a 25 yard field goal from Lewis to end the half at 22-17.
On the opening drive of the second half, Oakleaf’s defense again stuffed the Stingray offense with tackles from cornerback Chris Westry, safety Deandre Steelman and Quarterman forcing a Stingray punt near midfield.
Johnson could muster no offense to set up Lewis again for a punt from the 22. A second punt snap sailed wide left of Lewis and forced him to grab and run with the bounding ball before being tackled at the Knight five yard line. Two plays later, Atlantic Coast scored to go up 29-17 at 6:25.
Things got worse after the scoring miscue as Atlantic Coast recovered an onsides kick in front of three Oakleaf players watching the live ball bounce in front of them.
Once again, Oakleaf’s defense flexed itself with Brown and end Jonathan Dalexis limiting the Stingrays offensive production and forcing a fourth down five. A pass attempt in front of Roberts failed and Oakleaf took over at their own 25.
Runs to Duckworth netted nine yards and a slant to Jacobi Banks for 35 yards put the Knights at the Stingray 25 with 11:00 to go. The drive stalled with two incompletes to Banks, but Lewis fired off a field goal to score the game 29-20 with 10:17 to go.
With momentum narrowly peeking its head out on the Oakleaf side of the field, a missed tackle by Dalexis put Atlantic Coast on the Oakleaf 45 after an 11 yard run that led to 10 more Stingray offensive plays and a wide open pass in the end zone that ate six minutes of clock and put the Stingrays up 36-20.
Oakleaf had one more shot to score, but a midfield post pattern on target to Shaheen got jarred loose on first down and a Johnson interception on second down ended the attempt.
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Oakleaf High senior wideout Nick Shaheen, here in the grasp of Clay High defender Ryan Trossevin, has been key offensive weapon for Knights’ quarterback Jordan Johnson.