Collier, Dixon burn Broncos

By Mike Zima Correspondent
Posted 9/3/19

MIDDLEBURG - Speed kills.

Never was that more evident than Friday night at Middleburg, where Orange Park track

teammates Alex Collier and Sean Dixon stunned the Broncos with a combined …

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Collier, Dixon burn Broncos

Posted

MIDDLEBURG - Speed kills.

Never was that more evident than Friday night at Middleburg, where Orange Park track

teammates Alex Collier and Sean Dixon stunned the Broncos with a combined four

touchdowns and two two-point conversions to lift the Raiders to a 29-21 non-district win.

“I cannot simulate that kind of speed in practice,” Middleburg head coach Karl Smeltzer

said of the seniors who anchored a Raiders 4x400 relay team that finished fourth in the

FHSAA state track meet last spring with Collier also winning the Class 3A gold medal in the event. “That first play was just us having to get used to

world class speed.”

Smeltzer was referring to Collier’s 83 yard burst on the Raiders’ first play from

scrimmage, when the running back took a handoff up the middle, cut left and outran the

Broncos’ secondary up the sideline to the end zone. Collier finished with 337 all-purpose yards, including 198 rushing yards on 18 carries. He set up a Dixon touchdown with a 60 yard catch and run in the third quarter, and averaged 40 yards per return on

two kickoff returns.

“When he is healthy, he is a big part of the offense,” said Tom MacPherson of Collier,

who sat out the second half of Orange Park’s season-opening loss to Oakleaf due to

injury.

Dixon, like Collier a senior, was just as difficult for the Broncos to corral. With three

touchdown catches and two two-point conversions, the wideout scored on five of the six

times he touched the ball. He finished with a game-high 85 receiving yards.

“When they [opponents] try to stop Alex by loading the box, we know we have got Sean

out there in man-to-man,” said MacPherson.

Dixon exhibited physicality as well as speed, knocking Broncos cornerback Calvin

Suggs to the ground on a contested pass that became a 25 yard touchdown reception

in the fourth quarter, giving the Raiders a 29-15 lead.

While the Broncos were gauging the visitors’ speed, Orange Park shot out to a 16-0 first

quarter advantage. After each touchdown, the Raiders lined up in an unorthodox

formation for their point-after attempt. It featured an unbalanced line with only three

linemen over the ball and four others split wide left. There were two backs behind the

four wide linemen, and a quarterback and a running back behind the three down

linemen. On both occasions, back-up quarterback Tavien Wilkerson threw conversion

passes to Dixon, one over the middle and one as a screen pass behind the four wide

linemen.

“It is not that uncommon,” said MacPherson of the formation. “[Current UCLA head

coach] Chip Kelly runs it.”

Orange Park dominated the first two quarters, outgaining the hosts 274-94. Thanks to

yeoman work by outside linebacker Julius McCray, who had two tackles for loss, and

defensive end Kendy Charles, who had three, the Raiders held Middleburg to 38 yards

rushing on 20 first half attempts. Yet, due to a turnover in the red zone, seven penalties

which included a holding infraction that nullified an 80 yard scoring run by Collier, and a

poor punting game, they led only 16-8 at the intermission. An 18 yard punt led to a 33

yard strike from Broncos quarterback Joe Justino to sophomore Luke Padgett, who

bobbled the ball once while fighting off a defender before controlling it at the goal line,

just one minute before the intermission.

“We shot ourselves in the foot and let them hang around,” said MacPherson.

The second half was a much more balanced affair. Middleburg got running backs Jay

Lane and Trevor Shearin untracked. After being limited to 12 yards on five first half

carries, Lane gained 62 yards on seven totes in the second half. Shearin gained 38 of

his 56 rushing yards in the final two quarters, scoring twice on runs up the middle.

“We started running the outside toss more, to get them out of the box,” explained

Smeltzer. “Then we could run inside.”

The hosts drove 57 yards, all on the ground, to pull within 23-15 in the third quarter,

and, after Dixon’s touchdown catch over Suggs, again pulled to within eight on

Shearin’s second scoring run. When Trevor Todd set Middleburg up at the Raiders 45

yard line with a 20 yard punt return with five minutes remaining, it appeared the Broncos

might tie the game. However, two plays later, Orange Park outside linebacker Hunter

Moore pounced on a fumble, snuffing out the threat with 4:00 remaining. Justino

appeared to try to hand the ball off to Lane, who appeared to be carrying out a fake, and

the ball fell to ground.

“I read my key, which is the tackle,” said Moore. “I got through the line, saw the ball on

the ground, and jumped on it.”

The Broncos defense eventually got the ball back for Middleburg with 0:59 remaining,

but a sack by Charles pushed Middleburg backwards after they had advanced to their

own 37 yard line. Safety Spencer Kirkham batted down a fourth down pass to seal the

victory.

Orange Park quarterback Vinney Walker finished with 213 passing yards and three

touchdown passes.

“Wins are good, especially coming off a tough loss to Oakleaf where we were a little

banged up,” said MacPerson after the game.

The Raiders stay on the road for their next game, traveling to Baker County on

September 6.

For Middleburg, now 0-2, Smeltzer was disappointed in his team’s three turnovers but

pleased with their response to deficits of 16-0 and 23-8.

“I could not be prouder of the way we played in the second half,” he said. “We had to

regroup, and we did.”

The Broncos will look for their first win of 2019 when they host Palm Coast Matanzas on Sept. 6.

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