Fumbles, interceptions, flags doom Eagles’ state hopes

By Randy Lefko
Posted 11/30/17

BARTRAM TRAIL – Fleming Island High’s defense did just about what they wanted in stopping Bartram Trail’s top offensive threat; quarterback Joey Gatewood, but the focus on stopping Gatewood …

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Fumbles, interceptions, flags doom Eagles’ state hopes


BARTRAM TRAIL – Fleming Island High’s defense did just about what they wanted in stopping Bartram Trail’s top offensive threat; quarterback Joey Gatewood, but the focus on stopping Gatewood left the Bears second quarterback, Riley Smith, alone to end the Golden Eagles playoff run 38-13 Friday night at Bartram Trail High School. The win, a region 1-7A title to Bartram Trail, ended Fleming Island’s season at 10-3.

Fleming Island, with a highlight-reel 80 yard bomb to tailback Anfernee McCaskill the lone successful offensive effort, was victimized by fumbles, interceptions and untimely penalties throughout the game. Kickers Avery Coussens and Noah Hamlett both kicked field goals.

With defensive end Jake Libretto mirroring the elusive Gatewood and channeling him into the tackling lair of Fleming Island’s linebacker trio of Jack Surgeoner, Ryan Smenda and Jackson Bull, the Golden Eagles held Gatewood to an uncharacteristic 21 rushing yards and no scores on the run though Gatewood hit for two touchdown passes.

For the Golden Eagles, McCaskill’s touchdown from quarterback Brian Brown closed the scoring gap from 17-3 to 17-10 with four minutes left in the half. Bartram Trail opened the scoring with a field goal and a touchdown pass of 31 yards to go up 10-0 before Fleming Island started pounding fullback Chauncey Garrison with some results; a 28 yard run to midfield that put linebacker/quarterback Ryan Smenda in for a 14 yard gain two plays later to the Bear 39 yard line. McCaskill would pop off an 11 yard run to the Bear 27, but a penalty flag and two stops by the Bear defense got kicker Avery Coussens in to finish off a 32 yard field goal to put Fleming Island on the scoreboard.

Bartram Trail tried to set Gatewood free with a series of quarterback draws, but the Fleming Island defense continued to stuff the Auburn-bound quarterback until Bear running back Devin Ellison took a direct snap with Gatewood standing behind center and rumbled 12 yards on a fourth and two situation. Gatewood hit a touchdown pass behind defensive back Eugene Oglethorpe four plays later to push the lead to 17-3.

McCaskill, with Fleming Island starting at their own 20 after the ensuing kickoff, snuck through the Bartram Trail defense to gather in Brown’s high loft pass at the Bear 35 where he turned on the track jets untouched to paydirt.

Bartram Trail snubbed the Fleming Island score with a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff, but a penalty flag put the Bears at their own 33 yard line.

With Riley Smith behind center, Bartram Trail almost gave Fleming Island a second chance when Ellison fumbled the ball, but Oglethorpe and Smenda both missed the loose ball that put Bartram Trail on the Fleming Island 35 yard line.

With the renewed opportunity, Smith found a seam and ran for 20 yards to the Fleming Island 22 to set up a 13 yard pass to wide out Griffin Helm to the nine yard line before Smith finished the drive with another quarterback draw for a 24-10 lead with 2:06 left in the half.

Fleming Island attempted to move quickly to score before the half with Brown scrambling 16 yards to the Fleming Island 35. Smenda followed his line mates Darius Gooden and Sam Snyder for 13 yards to the Bears 48 where Brown again found green grass for 11 yards with 40 seconds left to the break.

Fleming Island looked to be pushing toward a halftime ending score after a timely pass interference ball put the ball at the Bartram Trail 23, but two sacks and an illegal shift penalty flag squashed the effort.

The Bears would get the third period kickoff with Smenda smashing the kick returner and Surgeoner and Josh Harris smothering Gatewood for a four yard loss looking like a Fleming Island defensive stand was about to turn the game, but a Gatewood scramble finished with a first down pass to the Fleming Island 27.

A Gatewood keeper got smashed by Bull and was followed by two incompletion off pass defense from Bobby Brown and Harris, before Gatewood hit a 21 yard pass in front of Oglethorpe to the Fleming Island seven yard line that led to a five yard scoring pass and a 31-10 Bears’ lead.

On Fleming Island’s next series, Smenda would fumble the ball away in a scrum at the Fleming Island 32 yard line, but Fleming Island would get their first break with a high punt snap putting the Golden Eagles at the Bears’ 40 yard line. Two plays later, Garrison torched the field behind a lead block from tackle Ben Creel to score, but a flag on an illegal block downfield from wideout Jared Ashe put the ball back on the Bears’ 18 yard line.

With the aid of a pass interference flag, Fleming Island would get as close as the Bears’ 19 before stalling and settling with a 27 yard field goal from kicker Noah Hamlett.

Fleming Island’s defense continued to hound Gatewood with Surgeoner and Harris again bottling up the elusive Bears’ quarterback and Smenda getting a third and 12 sack.

With sophomore quarterback Dean Hyams in for an injured Brown, Fleming Island got a 15 yard pass to Ashe on a diving catch to the Bear 43, but Fleming Island fumbled the ball away on fourth and 18 to put Bartram Trail on the Fleming Island 36. Two plays later, Smith found wideout Xavier Hutchinson behind Ashe for the final score of the night.

Hyams was intercepted twice on Fleming Island’s next two possession and a fumbled punt snap kept the Golden Eagles from advancing any comeback.


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