Clay pops Ponte Vedra in spring finalPONTE VEDRA - The Clay Blue Devils Football team finally got their spring football game in, traveling to Ponte Vedra to take on the Sharks, saving the best for …
Clay pops Ponte Vedra
in spring final
PONTE VEDRA - The Clay Blue Devils Football team finally got their spring football game in, traveling to Ponte Vedra to take on the Sharks, saving the best for last as the team looked to be in mid-season form after a few dozen practices.
“The spring game is all about just coming out and trying to get better” said Head Coach Kyle Kennard when asked about what grade he would assess the team at after the 28-14 win over the Sharks. “The number one thing we wanted to do was stay healthy, we got out of the game without any major injuries, so that’s a win in my book.”
After getting down early to the Sharks, the Blue Devils came charging back to put on an offensive display of the tools they will have at their disposal next season, as well as a stout defense that found its way quickly. Kennard will have some awesome weapons at hand which could mean a great year to come for Blue Devil Football.
“We know where we are at, where we have to go, and what sort of shape we have to get in,” said Kennard.
Off the coin flip win, the Blue Devils elected to take the ball first, and had some good production from starting quarterback Billy Mobley and running back Brandon Combs. Then Clay got bit by the penalty bug to set them with a fourth and over 40. On the punt, the Sharks used an inside running game to march down the field and get quick points on the board, 7-0.
In the second stanza, the Blue Devils introduced the Sharks to All State running back Al Querious Ray. Ray comes into the season 10 pounds lighter, about four inches taller, and is as lean as you want a power running back.
“Pads were popping, they were competing.”
Ray took the pigskin and worked his magic down the field to help get the Devils on the board 7-0. Quarterback Jaden Jenkins was out with an injury, and Mobley looked in great form in the pocket. He had time to look, was poised, and his passes were on target for several completions to include a touchdown pass to Ray, out of the backfield, and another to Jarvis Lee.
“We got a lot of different guys a lot of different reps, some guys stepped up tonight,” said Kennard. “I told them before the game, some of you guys are no names, but after tonight, they are going to know who you are.”
Kicker Cody Fennell was perfect on extra points, and wide left on a field goal attempt. The game was full on with live kickoffs, punts, and returns.
MANDARIN - Fleming Island High running back Musthafa Marshall’s 112 rushing yards were not nearly enough for Fleming Island as host Mandarin trounced the Golden Eagles 31-0 in their 2021 spring game on Thursday, May 20.
Fleming Island was without all five starting offensive linemen, and 23 seniors in all, from the team that went 9-3 and advanced all the way to a Class 7A regional final last fall. According to Golden Eagles head coach Damenyum Springs, an additional 15 to 20 players missed the game due to injury or other reasons. The inexperience showed.
“They are still puppies, but they were thrown into a big dog fight,” Springs said of the matchup with the Class 8A Mustangs.
The Golden Eagles, who started a freshman, two sophomores and a junior on the offensive line, simply could not block the Mandarin front seven. Fleming Island had minus 12 total yards of offense in the first half and were outgained 340-58 in the game. The Mustangs notched seven sacks and twelve tackles for loss. Only 19 of Fleming Island’s 48 offensive plays gained positive yardage.
Marshall carried 23 times and gained 82 of his yards in the second half when both teams played mostly junior varsity players. Springs was proud of his sophomore running back.
“Marshall did a good job,” said Springs. “He ran hard, he did not fumble, and he did not pout or get upset because he had no blocking.”
Outside linebacker Savion Lewis stood out for the Fleming Island defense with six tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss. The Golden Eagles only allowed nine first downs but were susceptible to the big play.
Fleming Island receiver Darion Domineck, weighing scholarship offers from Miami, Virginia Tech and Central Florida, was only targeted twice and did not have a reception.
Springs vowed after the game that the Golden Eagles who take the field next fall will look much different than those who played on Friday.
“We are not panicking,” Springs said. “You have to let them get slapped in the face, and then they see that we have got to get to work.”
Wolfe Bronco debut gets
goose egg on Indians
MIDDLEBURG - Touchdowns from three different runners and a hard-hitting defense made Ryan Wolfe’s head coaching debut a smashing success as Middleburg High shut out visiting Keystone Heights 21-0 in their 2021 spring game.
“It is very special,” said Wolfe, who had been an assistant coach at Orange Park and Nease and an offensive coordinator at Clay, Creekside and Fleming Island. “I have put in a lot of time and effort to get where I am today.”
Never has a spring game victory been so celebrated. After a string of losing seasons reached its low point with an 0-10 record in 2020, Middleburg and its players were looking for someone to lead the program back to respectability. The red-clad home crowd roared in approval as the final seconds wound down. After the post-game handshakes, the Broncos swarmed each other in jubilation and then ran to the end of the field to take pictures under the scoreboard that still showed the score. And for Wolfe, who toiled as an assistant coach for 19 years before getting an opportunity to be the man in charge, it was a milestone.
The Broncos’ offense was not dynamic, but moved the ball and mounted scoring drives in each of the first three quarters. They took the lead on their second offensive possession. New quarterback Luke Padgett gained 30 yards on a keeper, making a first down at the Keystone Heights 15 yard line. On fourth and three from the 8 yard line, backup quarterback Aiden Postemski entered the game, took a direct snap, ran wide left, broke the tackle of Indians safety Dalton Hollingsworth at the four yard line and ploughed into the end zone. Kaleb Robison’s point after gave Middleburg a 7-0 lead with 5:10 remaining in the first quarter.
That score was all that the Broncos would need, thanks to a suffocating defensive effort led by defensive tackles Donovan Wimberly and Gage Humphrey and linebackers Austin Curce and Jayden Levy. Wolfe thought all four played well, and emphasized the importance of Wimberly.
“Keystone runs a lot of traps, a lot of inside runs,” he explained. “Donovan was there all night, blowing it up.”
Middleburg held the Indians to 19 yards of offense in the first half when both teams played their starters, and ended the game with a 206-74 edge in total offense. Humphrey had two of the Broncos’ six tackles for loss and added a sack.
“For us to be successful we have to control the lines of scrimmage,” said Keystone Heights head coach Chuck Dickinson, who operates a run-heavy scheme featuring single wing and wishbone formations. “We did not do that tonight.”
Middleburg extended its lead on the first possession of the second quarter. Padgett found freshman Jacob Lohse for a 27 yard catch-and-run to convert a second and 23, bringing the ball to the Keystone 26. The junior then converted two consecutive third downs with his feet, setting up a first and goal at the five yard line. Two plays later, Padgett handed the ball to his twin, Logan Padgett, who carried the Indians’ Logan Williams across the goal line. The Broncos carried a 14-0 lead into halftime. Each Padgett had 27 yards rushing.
Middleburg’s Caleb Freytag provided the excitement in the second half. On the Broncos’ first offensive play of the third quarter, the junior wideout took a jet sweep around right end, cut inside Keystone cornerback Bryar Schenck, stiff-armed safety Logan Williams’ and outran the rest of the Indians to the pylon for a 69 yard score.
“Caleb can fly,” said Wolfe. “He is going to be a deep threat and also a horizontal guy on bubble screens and sweeps.”
Both teams were breaking in new quarterbacks. Middleburg’s Padgett finished with three completions in five attempts for 52 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Wolfe is excited about him.
“Luke can run, he can throw, and he can throw on the run,” said Wolfe. “Our offense [at other schools] has been good when we have had a mobile guy.”
Junior Tyler Jenkins is the new signal caller at Keystone Heights. He finished with six rushing yards on nine carries and threw two incomplete passes, all in the first half.
“I thought that what [plays] we put in, he did well,” said Livingston. “He is a tough, downhill runner.”
Sophomore Landon Hovsepien led the Indians with 26 rushing yards.
Despite the lack of production against a Class 6A school, Livingston was not discouraged. He estimated that in fifteen years at Class 3A Keystone Heights, the Indians had only won one spring game.
“We have to get better on both sides of the line, but we will be okay,” he said. “For us, the spring game is just a chance to get some things on film and see what we need to get better at.”
The game meant much more than that for Middleburg.
“It’s everything,” Wolfe said of the win. “Now, what we are preaching has some substance to it. It is like we proved ourselves to the team.”
Riding a wave of momentum into the offseason, Wolfe and his staff have given a football-crazy community something it has not had in some time.