BARTRAM TRAIL – A pick six interception touchdown, a 92 yard kickoff returned for a touchdown and a career night from junior slot back Brody Domenico were not enough highlight for the Fleming …
BARTRAM TRAIL – A pick six interception touchdown, a 92 yard kickoff returned for a touchdown and a career night from junior slot back Brody Domenico were not enough highlight for the Fleming Island High football team as the just-as-explosive Bartram Trail High offense that went toe--to-toe in a district showdown that would have salvaged a playoff spot for the winner came down to raw running power as the Bears won a 51-42 thriller Friday night at Bartram Trail High to all but close the door on a possible Fleming Island playoff repeat.
Domenico, with his 92 yard kickoff return coming with just 10 minutes left in the game, put the score at 44-42 as the Golden Eagles used a mix of passes from quarterback Dean Hyams to Domenico and tight end Sam Snyder, bullish running from senior Aaron Ramirez and Domenico’s kick return prowess to offset the Bears impressive offensive skill sets. Domenico, on top of his 92-yarder, averaged nearly 35 yards on five kickoff returns for Fleming Island while catching five passes for 120 yards.
The Bears were powered by running back A.J. Jones’ 298 yards of offense; 195 on the ground with three touchdowns as the Bears put themselves back into the district 3-7A playoff hunt, as well as the region 1-7A scenario. Bartram Trail sat in the number eight slot in playoff points rankings with Fleming Island down at 13. Oakleaf, also in district 3-7A, was at number four behind Columbia, Buchholz and Robert E. Lee after week seven tabulations.
Oakleaf, with their 40-27 non-district loss to defending 4A champion Raines on Friday, should stay put in the top four with an anticipated possible district title throwdown at Gainesville Buchholz on Friday. Oakleaf and Buchholz are both 2-0 in district play. Bartram Trail is at 2-1 with both Creekside and Fleming Island winless in district play.
From the opening whistle at Bartram Trail, both teams were pushing the offensive gas pedal to the floor with the Bears opening with a seven play drive that featured a 22 yard pass play on play two, but a Fleming Island defensive stand that forced a midfield punt.
On the punt, Fleming Island returner Jared Ashe bobbled the punt and Bartram Trail swiped the muff at the Golden Eagle 20. Two plays later, Bartram Trail scored on a quarterback keep from Harry Bowker, a newly place starter due to injury.
On the Bears kickoff, Domenico blasted 27 yards from the five to the Fleming Island 30 for decent starting position but a penalty flag put the Golden Eagles back at their own 18.
Domenico struck again with a nifty 22 yard pass catch in the middle of the Bears secondary before Ramirez bulldogged six carries to put the ball at the Bears 27 yard line. A six yard run from Dewayne McBride, who was returned to the lineup despite a fractured arm with a cast, preempted two more Ramirez rushes with a final five yard into the end zone. A two-point conversion put Fleming Island up 8-7.
An end zone kickoff started Bartram Trail at their own 20, but Bowker and Jones rolled to the Bears second score after a 15 play drive that included a fourth and two conversion near midfield.
Fleming Island got as close as the Bears 37 before a punt into the Bartram Trail end zone put the Eagles defense back on the field.
With second string quarterback Michael French in, assumingly to continue the Bears traditional alternative quarterback looks, Fleming Island defensive back Jared Ashe snagged a weak out pattern pass and returned it 27 yards to paydirt to make French’s contribution a final for the night. The Ashe touchdown put Fleming Island up 15-14 with 8:10 still in the first quarter.
Another Avery Coussens kickoff into the end zone put the Bears on the 20, but a near miss interception from Jared Ashe only precluded a 76 yard scoring run from Jones as Bartram Trail took a 21-15 lead just 45 seconds later.
From the Eagles’ 20 after the ensuing kickoff, Hyams hit wideout Kaleb Seyboldt with a 41 yard bomb to the Bears’ 39 that Ramirez and McBride extended with handoffs to the Bears’ 15. From there, Hyams found Snyder over the middle with a scoring pass to score the game 22-21.
Just two plays after the kickoff, Howker dropped a pass to Jones over Fleming Island defensive back Courtney Williams that went for an 84 yard score and a 28-22 Bears lead with 3:41 to the half.
Domenico had his second quality kickoff return with an 31 yard putting Hyams back out at the 36 yard line. Both teams shared three and out series before Hyams found Domenico again in the middle of the Bears secondary for 15 yards to midfield to set up a Snyder catch to the Bears seven yard line. From there, Hyams hit fullback Max Michaels in the end zone to put Fleming Island up 29-28.
Bartram Trail would add a field goal to end the half with the lead 31-29.
Domenico put Fleming Island at the 34 with another quality kickoff return that led to Fleming Island taking the lead at 35-31 with Domenico adding a 40 yard pass play to his night’s resume to put the Eagles at the Bears’ 30. Ramirez four times and a penalty put Fleming Island at the eight where Ramirez walked in for the score.
With the lead, Fleming Island’s defense had its best series against the hi-octane Bears offense with Jared Ashe nailing down two short pass plays and linebacker Zach Paine crushing Howker on a quarterback draw. A vicious hit from linebacker Jaelin Blount popped the ball from Bears’ running back Devin Ellison that defensive end Jake Libretto fell on to put the Fleming Island offense back on the field at midfield.
Hyams missed on three passes to force a punt from the Bears’ 46.
On second down at the Bears’ 24, Ellison found his jets and motored to the Fleming Island 32 to set up his own 23 yard scoring run as Bartram Trail regained the lead; 37-35, with 5:59 left in the third.
Domenico, for a fourth time, punched up a near-40 yard kickoff return to midfield, but the play was negated by a penalty flag to start Fleming Island at the 10. After a 10 yard Ramirez carry that nearly broke save for an ankle tackle, Fleming Island would punt to start Bartram Trail at their own 22.
Near midfield, defensive end Glenn Rodgers and Libretto smashed Ellison and got a fumble recovery from defensive tackle Jeremiah “Bus” Jackson to start Fleming Island at midfield.
On a scramble, Hyams was intercepted on a pass attempt to Seybolt to put Bartram Trail at their 37.
With the fourth quarter starting and Fleming Island starting from their own eight yard line after a four down defensive stand led by Jackson and Williams, Bartram Trail’s defense let loose after Hyams to force a punt that got a roughing the kicker flag and Bartram Trail first down at the Fleming Island 37.
Howker called his own number and scored straight through the middle of the Eagles’ defense to go up 44-35 with 10:06 to go.
Domenico exploded across the field on the kickoff to score from 92 yards away to put the Eagles within two at 44-42 just 17 seconds later (Domenico number 17?).
Jones answered with his 40 yard scoring sprint for the final score of the night to put the game at 51-42 with 7:26 left, but Hyams moved the Eagles to the Bears’ 15 with back to back passes to Domenico; for 11 and 32 yards to the Bears’ 15. Hyams went to the end zone to Jared Ashe, but was intercepted by Bears’ defender Merrel Payne who outjumped Ashe.