MANDARIN - The Fleming Island offensive line, consisting of Timothy Lawrence, Ethan Hoffstetter, Michael Zeray, Ethan Williams and Braden Cunningham, paved the way for 196 first half rushing yards as …
MANDARIN - The Fleming Island offensive line, consisting of Timothy Lawrence, Ethan Hoffstetter, Michael Zeray, Ethan Williams and Braden Cunningham, paved the way for 196 first half rushing yards as Fleming Island shot out to a 21-14 halftime lead that its junior varsity could not hold in the second half of a 38-28 loss to Mandarin in the Spring Classic on Thursday, May 19.
What a difference a year makes.
All of the linemen except Cunningham, who was a freshman and did not start, made their first varsity starts in last year’s spring game against these same Mustangs, and were in over their heads. In 2021, the Golden Eagles rushed for minus twelve yards in the first half, surrendered seven sacks and allowed twelve tackles for loss. Thursday, Fleming Island got the better of the Mustangs at the line of scrimmage, scoring touchdowns on three of their first four possessions while averaging almost seven yards per rush.
“I loved how the O-line started pounding on them,” said Golden Eagles head coach Damenyum Springs after the game. “Those guys were opening up some big holes tonight.”
With starting running back Sam Singleton sitting out the game with a hamstring injury suffered while running for Fleming Island’s track team this spring, Musthafa Marshall was the lead back and responded with 87 yards on 16 carries. He capped a game-opening 75 yard drive with a two yard run to give Fleming Island a 7-0 lead.
Jhoel Robinson, who appears to be a featured back in short yardage situations and gained 30 yards on three carries, bulled his way into the end zone from seven yards out to give the Golden Eagles a 21-7 lead in the second quarter.
The Fleming Island defense was challenged by one of North Florida’s most potent passing games. Mandarin’s freshman quarterback, Tramell Jones, is being scouted by BCS colleges, as are wide receivers Jaime French, Kieren Jackson and Koron Hayward. And while the Mustangs moved the ball in the first half, the Golden Eagles defense made enough big plays to lead 21-14 going into the intermission.
On a third and goal from the Fleming Island 12 yard line in the second quarter, Golden Eagles defensive end Jake Little got past his man and chased Jones further away from the line of scrimmage. Jones eventually eluded Little, but linebacker Abram Wright broke free from his blocker and sacked Jones for a 20 yard loss. Mandarin was forced to punt. Springs has noticed progress from Wright, who had two sacks on the night.
“That sack was very big,” said Springs. “He made a play like that in the Green and Gold game, and we are expecting good things out of him.”
Cibastian Broughton, Fleming Island’s freshman quarterback, played a different type of game than Jones. He only completed one of four passes in the first half, but repeatedly hurt Mandarin with his legs, running for 78 yards on seven rushes. He scrambled for 15 yards on a third and 12 to set up Robinson’s touchdown. His completion went for a touchdown when he escaped the grasp of Mandarin end Joshua Burton in the pocket, drifted left and connected with junior Kaan Jumani at the goal line from 40 yards out.
“He brings a lot to the offense,” Springs said of Broughton. “He makes something happen when there is nothing there. He saved us.”
Springs sees the need to develop depth behind his starters and for the secondary, which will have two new starters, to learn to work together as priorities over the summer. He is planning to take the Golden Eagles to several seven-on-seven camps work on these goals.
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