ORANGE PARK - The St. John’s Country Day School Spartans, with some highlight reel plays including a 70 yard scoring pass from Tanner Walker to Max Arnold, were looking for the upset against the …
ORANGE PARK - The St. John’s Country Day School Spartans, with some highlight reel plays including a 70 yard scoring pass from Tanner Walker to Max Arnold, were looking for the upset against the St. Joseph’s Flashes but ran into a buzzsaw and a 41-13 defeat that kept the Flashes unbeaten on the season.
“We made some plays like this tonight; unfortunately just not enough of them,” said St. Johns Country Day School coach Derek Chipoletti. “Brady (Walden) makes plays for us all over the field on both sides of the ball.”
The Flashes took less than two minutes to score on their first possession with an 18 yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Kent Hill by quarterback Dylan Thibault to take an early 7-0 lead.
The Spartans had an early opportunity to immediately punch back and tie the game but a third down pass to wide receiver Matthew Kelley who had no one in front of him was just over his fingertips. Instead of a potential tie game, the Spartans were forced to punt.
On third down of the Flashes next drive, quarterback Dylan Thibault scrambled 40 yards to the St. John’s 20 yard line to set up a 10 yard touchdown run two plays later by James Drysdale to increase the lead to 14-0.
“We really wanted to establish the run game early tonight with what we run offensively, but we just were not able to do that” said first year St. John’s head coach Derek Chipoletti.
After another punt by the Spartans led to St. Joesph’s driving deep into St. John’s territory, the Spartans Eli Morton nearly single handedly stopped the Flashes drive. On first down, the senior tipped a pass attempt by Thibault and, on second down, he sacked Thibault for an eight yard loss.
The Flashes would attempt a field goal on fourth down when Morton would get free and blocked the attempt to keep the Spartans within striking distance.
“He’s a heck of a football player. I’ve coached 7A teams that went 10-0 and three rounds into the playoffs and he can absolutely play at that level” said Chipoletti of Morton.
Later in the half, the Flashes would fumble the ball away at their 28 yard line giving St. John’s a short field to work with.
Quarterback Tanner Walker would run 16 yards to the 12 yard line to set up a beautiful third down pass to Brady Walden in the corner of the end zone to put the Spartans on the scoreboard at 14-6 early in the second quarter.
The Flashes would regroup offensively and add two more touchdowns to take a 28-6 lead.
Late in the second quarter, the Flashes looked for a deep pass to add to their lead but Walker would intercept the pass with just seven seconds until the intermission.
The second half saw more of the same as Walker and the Spartans struggled on their first drive including two dropped passes. The lone bright spot of the second half was a 70 yard touchdown pass to Max Arnold with 30 seconds remaining to end the game and a final score of 41-13 in favor of the Flashes.
The Spartans head coach is in his first season and looking to build a winning program takes two things: Effort and time. Numbers are also another challenge especially at a school known more for its swimming, soccer and baseball teams than football.
“We have to recruit the hallways and get as many kids out here as possible. Right now we have 17 players that we consistently play and and over half of those are going both ways. That’s around 120 plays per game so we do get fatigued late in games” said Chipoletti. “In practice I actually have to use some of my coaches as offensive lineman so we can get proper looks.”
The head coach has led schools with over 2,000 students, had a perfect regular season and gone three rounds deep in the state playoffs but this group has held a special place for him.
“I am more proud of this team than any other team I have ever coached. These guys play their hearts out every day. They play both sides of the ball and have to learn multiple positions which is not easy. I just have alot of respect for how hard they work for us” he said.