FLEMING ISLAND – Fleming Island High’s six foot, six inch tight end Sam Snyder batted down a potential game-winning Hail Mary throw by Ridgeview quarterback Tyler Huff on the game’s final …
FLEMING ISLAND – Fleming Island High’s six foot, six inch tight end Sam Snyder batted down a potential game-winning Hail Mary throw by Ridgeview quarterback Tyler Huff on the game’s final play, allowing Fleming Island to escape with a 42-37 non-district win over the visiting Panthers on Sept. 21.
“He [Snyder] did it exactly how it’s designed. He high-pointed the ball and deflected it away,” explained a relieved Fleming Island coach Damenyum Springs after the game.
For the second week in a row, the Golden Eagles let a big lead slip away. On September 14, the Golden Eagles led Gainesville Buchholz 35-14 before losing in overtime. This week, they teetered on the edge of another monumental collapse before Snyder, a 6-foot, 5-inch tight end, saved the day.
“When the score got closer, it kind of felt like that [Buchholz game] again,” said Springs.
Aaron “Ozzie” Ramirez and Dean Hyams staked the Golden Eagles to their big lead, assisted by an opportunistic defense. Ramirez, a receiver who moved to running back after starter Dewayne McBride suffered a broken wrist, ran for 122 yards and two first half touchdowns. The senior also gained 35 yards on a reception from Hyams to set up a touchdown throw from Hyams to Max Michaels that gave Fleming Island a 21-14 halftime lead.
“Ozzie is an athlete,” said Springs. “It all comes naturally for him. And Dean has had two great games back-to-back.”
Hyams completed 12 of 17 passes for 227 yards and two scores. His second scoring toss was one for the ages, and was the turning point of the game. After a muff and a holding penalty on the second half kickoff forced the Golden Eagles to begin the possession at their own three yard line, Hyams faked a hand-off and lofted a spiral up the right sideline. Eugene Oglesby, a defensive back brought over to the offense only because of the injury to McBride, snared the ball in stride near midfield and raced the remaining distance for a 97 yard touchdown that swung the momentum to the home side and gave the Golden Eagles a 27-14 lead.
The jolt energized the Fleming Island defense. On Ridgeview’s ensuing possession, Huff and running back Jaiden Turner botched an exchange. Golden Eagles linebacker Declan Bertolini pounced on the loose ball at the Ridgeview 22 yard line. Two plays later, Tim Thomas blasted up the middle, sidestepped a linebacker and tugged a Panthers safety across the goal line for a 14-yard score.
On the next series, linebacker Andrew Thomas and safety Jared Ashe crashed into Huff from opposite sides as he scrambled away from pressure, forcing another fumble that was recovered by the hosts’ Zach Payne at the Panthers’ 25 yard line. After a pass interference penalty brought the ball halfway to the goal line, Tim Thomas covered the remaining 12 yards in two plays to give Fleming a seemingly insurmountable 42-14 advantage.
“You cannot give a good team the ball in the red zone three times,” observed Ridgeview head coach Cameron Porch, referring not only to the two turnovers but also to a 63 yard kickoff return by Andrew Thomas that led to a Ramirez touchdown run.
The Panthers made a game of it by scoring 23 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Huff, who had zero passing yards in the third quarter, had 201 in the final 12 minutes, along with three of his four touchdown passes. He began the comeback with a 10 yard scoring toss to Brian Jackson, who made a diving catch in the end zone. That touchdown was followed by scoring tosses of 34 yards to Spencer Calise on a rollout and 35 yards on a catch and run by Turner with 0:30 remaining.
After Cole Pittman covered Matt Koziolek’s onside kick, the Golden Eagles elected to down the ball behind the line of scrimmage on three consecutive plays, despite the fact that Ridgeview had all three of their time outs. Facing a fourth and 30 from their own 25, Hyams took a shotgun snap and retreated into the end zone, stepping out of bounds for a safety when the Panthers defenders converged upon him. Since one second remained on the clock, the Golden Eagles were forced to kick off, and Ridgeview’s Caleb Plyler executed a fair catch at the Panthers’ 41 yard line. Huff sat in the pocket until his receivers neared the Fleming goal line, and then lofted the prayer that Snyder would swat away to end the game.
Huff finished 18 of 24 for 280 yards, with no interceptions.
“He is a warrior,” Porch said of his senior signalcaller. “He is always going to fight.”
Plyler led the Panthers in rushing with 56 yards and scored their other touchdown on a two yard run.
Both teams are now 3-2 and face difficult district games on Friday, September 28. The Panthers travel to District 5-5A foe Orange Park, while Fleming Island has hosts Oakleaf in District 3-7A.
“We have got to play almost a perfect game, control the line of scrimmage, and make plays when we can,” said Springs about the matchup with the Knights.