FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High senior running back Tim Thomas ran for 170 yards and three touchdowns to support a suffocating defensive effort led by Jourdan Haynes as Fleming Island subdued …
FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High senior running back Tim Thomas ran for 170 yards and three touchdowns to support a suffocating defensive effort led by Jourdan Haynes as Fleming Island subdued visiting Ridgeview 33-10 on Friday, September 25. Both teams were unbeaten prior to the game.
“Timmy played big tonight,” said Fleming Island coach Damenyum Springs. “He ran hard and found the end zone.”
The senior averaged nine yards per carry on his 19 rushes, scoring the first three touchdowns of the game. Late in the first quarter, he ran the ball on all three plays of a 41-yard drive, riding a wave of interior linemen across the goal line from five yards out to give the Golden Eagles a 6-0 lead. The Air Force commit put Fleming Island ahead 13-0 in the second quarter on the same play that he had scored on earlier, again ploughing into the end zone for a five yard score. Thomas put both speed and power on display on his final touchdown run, brushing off a tackle attempt by Panthers linebacker Joe Reed and racing 29 yards to the pylon to give the Golden Eagles a 20-2 edge in the third quarter.
“Our offense does not go without Timmy,” said Springs. “It is built around him.”
The Golden Eagles used a time-honored formula— running the ball and stopping the run— to improve to 3-0, remaining undefeated in regular season play since 2018. Fleming Island outrushed the Panthers 254-28, completely throttling the Ridgeview ground game. The Fleming Island front four, consisting of ends Colt Hyams and Hunter Williams and tackles Jourdan Haynes and Ricky Joseph, permitted no running lanes and harassed Ridgeview quarterback Max Monroe all evening. Haynes had three sacks, Williams had two tackles for loss and Joseph had a tackle for loss. Linebacker Alex Maier supported the run with three tackles for loss.
“We have one big, physical defensive lineman,” said Ridgeview head coach Matt Knauss. “They have about 20.”
For Monroe, who was sacked four times and was often forced to scramble or to simply throw the ball away to avoid a sack, and Ridgeview starting running back Isaiah Gamble, who finished with minus four yards on six carries, it may have seemed like the Golden Eagles had extra men on the field.
The Fleming Island defense did not allow the Panthers a first down until midway through the second quarter. The biggest stop came at the end of the first half, with the Golden Eagles holding a 14-2 lead but losing the momentum when Reed and Ridgeview teammate Nick Markum combined to sack Fleming Island’s Grant Travis in the end zone to get the Panthers on the scoreboard.
Ridgeview took possession at midfield following the safety and reached the Golden Eagles 26 yard line on Ed Whipple’s 12 yard catch. But Fleming Island cornerback Dedric Walker sacked Monroe on the next play, and Haynes prevented him from getting a Hail Mary off with another sack on the half’s final play, preserving the hosts’ two-score lead.
“The defensive line is the heart of the defense,” said Springs. “You want to stop things before they start.”
Along with the failure to score after the safety, Knauss cited an interception by Fleming Island safety Devin Grind on the first Ridgeview drive that had crossed midfield and a dropped pass by Ed Whipple on a deep post pattern as missed opportunities to tighten the game in the first half.
“Eddie makes that catch one hundred one times out of one hundred,” said Knauss. “That was a freak accident.”
While the defense was suffocating the Panthers, the Fleming Island offense methodically pounded away with Thomas, T.K. Kocak and Sam Singleton to slowly pull away. The Golden Eagles ran the ball 47 times while only attempting six passes.
Singleton, who rushed for 46 yards, took a swing pass from Kocak, cut back to evade a tackler and raced 15 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to give the hosts a 26-2 lead. Kocak, who contributed 39 rushing yards, finished the scoring with a one yard plunge with under one minute remaining.
Almost half of the Panthers’ offensive output came on their lone touchdown, a swing pass that the speedy Whipple took 65 yards up the sideline in the fourth quarter. Monroe finished with eight completions on 21 throws for 132 yards, including a quick slant to Josh Dorsainvil for a two-point conversion to bring Ridgeview within 26-10 with five minutes remaining in the game. The Golden Eagles’ Darion Domineck recovered the ensuing onside kick to squelch any thought of a reprise of the ending of the 2018 game between these teams, which saw the Panthers mount a furious 23-point comeback in the fourth quarter of a 42-37 loss.
“They were just bigger, faster and stronger,” Knauss said of the Golden Eagles. “There is a reason they win a lot.”
The Panthers, who used a fumble recovery at midfield by defensive tackle Derrick Mosley to keep the game close in the first half, fall to 2-1. They travel to Orange Park to face the Raiders on Friday, October 2.
Fleming Island hosts Creekside (2-1), who is fresh off a 31-24 overtime win over Bolles, on October 2.
“We will watch the film and see what we need to correct,” said Springs. “Creekside is going to be good, but it is more about fixing us than game planning for our opponent.”