MIDDLEBURG - With dad Rob Justino roaming the sidelines and older brother Dan Justino watching as a fan, the third Justino signalcaller for Middleburg High, Joe Justino, showed off some scrambling …
MIDDLEBURG - With dad Rob Justino roaming the sidelines and older brother Dan Justino watching as a fan, the third Justino signalcaller for Middleburg High, Joe Justino, showed off some scrambling and throwing ability in the Broncos’ 20-7 spring game loss to Westside High Friday night at Middleburg High School.
Joe Justino, a junior, follows the footsteps of dad Rob, an assistant coach still on the Middleburg sideline and a passing record holder for Middleburg High as well as Liberty University, and older brother Daniel Justino, now battling for a field goal kicking slot at the University of Florida after directing the Bronco offense in his senior year in 2015.
“He showed some good pocket composure in there in his first varsity shot,” said Middleburg coach Karl Smeltzer. “He rolled out well and kept his eyes downfield to hit some receivers on the run.”
Another familiar face on the Bronco sideline was former Fleming Island High head coach Frank Hall, who was dismissed three years ago amidst unfounded claims of misappropriation of booster funds at Fleming Island High School. Hall, never charged with a crime nor disciplined for wrongdoing, was replaced unceremoniously as Fleming Island High’s coach and replaced by assistant coach Damenyum Springs. Springs is now the head coach.
“Having a full coaching staff is important for as young as we are and to get a coach like Frank Hall to come back to coaching can only help our kids,” said Smeltzer. “He brings a lot of big game experience to us.”
With Hall as a defensive line coach, Smeltzer has himself, Rob Justino and defensive coordinator Alan Burnsed all standout coaches with years of experience.
“When we went to playoffs two years ago, we had a full coaching staff,” said Smeltzer. “Last year, we were down two for the end of the year. It makes a difference.”
Joe Justino struck first on the run on the opening drive for Middleburg after directing a 11 play drive behind the running of senior tailback Tyler Bryant and an over-the-shoulder catch by wideout Jay Lane, a sophomore, for 42 yards to Westside’s 33 yard line. Justino stayed with Bryant and Lane with passes and handoffs to the Westside 11 yard line before hitting junior wideout Trevor Todd on a slant left to the Westside nine yard line.
“Lane came in last year at the end from junior varsity and did a nice job,” said Smeltzer. “Tyler is a seasoned player at running back, but we put him at safety because of an injury to our starter last Thursday. He misread one of the Westside scores, but he will learn the schemes if we are going to use him.”
From the nine, Justino bootlegged right and floated a scoring pass to a wide open lane in the end zone to finish the drive while also using nearly five minutes of the clock.
Westside would retaliate with a 75 yard straight up the middle of the field with defensive back Calvin Suggs and Anthony Havens giving chase unsuccessfully.
Justino was getting little help up front from his offensive line, led by 6’-3”, 285 pound juniors Cole Leclair and Colby Warner as a handoff to fullback Justin Borchardt went nowhere and Havens mishandled a pitchout that lost five yards on the fumble scramble.
“Both of those guys are massive and athletic,” said Smeltzer. “We get the blocking down, we’ll move people.”
Defensive back Calvin Suggs, an athletic 5’-7”, 157 pounder, had some well-time pass breakups as a highlight for the Bronco defense with a jumping swipe in front of Westside’s top wideout, senior Javon Gantt, a 6’-4” leaper.
“Calvin’s dad was a great running back for Orange Park High back when and Calvin, Jr., has a smart football mind,” said Smeltzer. “He played well against a Division I prospect that Westside had out there.”
With 3:20 left in the first quarter, Justino ran eight plays with a scramble for 14 yards the highlight for a first down at the 40. A third down slant to Todd gained five yards, but Middleburg had to punt.
Suggs struck again with another pass breakup, but Gantt got beyond Bryant at safety for his second score of the night from 42 yards away.
In Middleburg’s ensuing drive, head coach Karl Smeltzer started giving Havens his shot int he backfield for gains of three yards before Justino found Lane again for a 13 yard pass for a first down at the 42. Middleburg punted away the ball.
Middleburg stopped the Westside run game momentarily on the next drive with defensive end Dylan Keller and linebacker Brody Senn stepping up to the line of scrimmage before Gantt pulled down a 42 pass over Havens who was in perfect inside position, but no match for the jumping ability of Gantt. From the 25, Westside would score five plays later with Gannt grabbing his second score of the night and a 21-7 halftime lead.
“He just got out-athleted,” said Smeltzer. “He had great position, but just got outjumped.”