FLEMING ISLAND – After a nearly perfect start which saw scores in every phase of the game, the Fleming Island High School Golden Eagles celebrated Senior Night in their 2020 season opener with a 29-7 win over the visiting Palatka Panthers.
The win is the 10th regular season win in a row for the Golden Eagles who finished with a region semifinal loss to Niceville last year after a 9-0 regular season record.
The Golden Eagles got points in every conceivable way during the opening quarter, getting out to a 23-0 nothing lead before holding the onto the lead in an uneven performance the rest of the way. Fleming Island scored on a touchdown run, a safety on a botched punt attempt by Palatka, a kickoff return following the safety, and a touchdown pass on the following drive. Fleming Island did not score again until the fourth quarter.
“We started putting different kids in, younger kids,” said Golden Eagles coach Damenyum Springs of the slowdown after the hot opening quarter. “We were trying to make sure our kids don’t get hurt; to get out of this game.”
The Golden Eagles began to find success in the running game the rest of the game, only throwing 10 passes on the night.
“We seen it on film, that our run game could be pretty decent,” said Springs. “That’s always going to be our identity as a football team, is to run first. Our offensive coordinator, offensive staff, they do a great job of getting these guys ready to play low, play hard, play fast. So that’s our identity.”
Fleming Island rushed for 233 yards on the night, with sophomores Musthafa Marshall and Jhace Edwards combined for 186 yards (Marshall – 116, Edwards – 70). Sam Singleton chipped in with 47 more on just four carries.
Palatka, running a triple-option-style offensive scheme, settled in after the first frame, and had more success in the ground game, but it was already out of reach for a team that could not score quickly.
“When we came out [of the half], we went with our second and third string on defense,” said Springs. “They started running inside trap early and stuff like that. Our second and third string guys were backing up and not going downhill.”
Fleming Island senior quarterback Grant Travis did not play particularly well outside of a first quarter touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Darion Domineck. Travis over and underthrew receivers throughout the game and completed under 50 percent of his passes on the night.
“First, we just gotta go back and watch film, and watch his mechanics and see what was going wrong. Then we’ll fix it from there,” said Springs of his quarterback’s inefficiency in the passing game. “Probably second thing is, him just relaxing, you know, just relax; first game jitters. So just get him relaxed.”
The Golden Eagles feel they have established their offensive identity as a tough football team in the trenches.
“We got these running backs, me Sam and Timmy [Thomas],” said Marshall. “We got the great O-line, and the coaching staff helped us put work in. Working everyday in practice, and we just executed in the game. Our mindset is go get ‘em. Defense executes, offense executes, we win the game.”
Fleming Island (1-0) plays next on the road at Fletcher (1-0, 23-0 over Terry Parker) on September 18 while Palatka (0-2) visits Ponte Vedra High.