GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Fleming Island High senior tight end Nick Ferendo snatched three key passes in the first half of the Golden Eagles rivalry clash with Clay High then sophomore tailback Dewayne …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Fleming Island High senior tight end Nick Ferendo snatched three key passes in the first half of the Golden Eagles rivalry clash with Clay High then sophomore tailback Dewayne McBride stole the show in the second half as Fleming Island shoved their way to a 27-6 non-district win Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
“You see it working right there; me and Dean (Fleming Island quarterback Dean Hyams),” said Ferendo, who caught a first quarter touchdown to capitalize on a Clay turnover. “We had a good thing going all summer and it came out tonight.”
The Fleming Island win, the second under coach Damenyum Springs, who snagged a 24-14 win last year in his first foray as official head coach for the Golden Eagles, showed off a bit of daring on the part of the Eagles coaching staff.
“We knew they had that big running back (junior Aundre Carter at 240 pounds) and their linemen are always big, so we put our two big boys up front to battle,” said Springs, talking about seniors Jose Concepcion and Will Hudgens who teamed up with senior veteran Darius Gooden to keep the Blue Devil ballcarriers in check for most of the game. “We had those guys step up in a big way to clog up the middle for us and give the linebackers time to get to the ball.”
Taking the opening kickoff, Hyams rolled out right and found Ferendo for a 19 yard gain on second down to set up a 16 yard off tackle run by tailback Anfernee McCaskill as the Golden Eagles moved at will early in the contest. Hyams finished efficiently with nine of 11 passes for 107 yards with one touchdown.
Clay answered the quick strikes with outside linebacker Cody Devore crashing in on Hyams for a sack that lost seven yards and eventually created a punt for the Golden Eagles.
Clay could not move the ball with Carter as Gooden and company set up tackles from linebacker Austin Smenda and Ridgeview transfer Jake Libretto at defensive end to force a punt at the Clay 31.
On the punt, the snap went awry for punter Chris Hancher and Fleming Island got their first break of the night as linebacker Josh Harris emerged from the ensuing pileup with the ball at the Clay 20.
From there, Hyams found Ferendo sliding into the end zone behind defender Wilguens Dorvinus for the first score of the night. Kicker Avery Coussens made the kick to put Fleming Island up 7-0 with 5:29 left in the first quarter.
“We had the height advantage there,” said Ferendo, at six foot, two inches.
Clay, with just 123 yards total rushing on 40 carries for the night, attempted to get a pass game going around the ferocious run defense of Fleming Island and quarterback Caleb Eason found wideout Ajay Belanger for a pass to the Clay 30 after the kickoff, but linebackers Jackson Bull and Smenda crashed down Eason’s pocket on second down for a loss of three yards. On the next down, it was Gooden and Bull pressuring Eason to an errant throw and forcing a punt from the Clay 34 yard line.
From their own 43, Hyams found Ferendo again, on third and six to the Clay 37, but, with Bull in a Wildcat T-formation offense, Clay ramped up their defensive attack with defensive end Josh Griffis smashing Bull on third and five to force a punt.
After a strong 10 yard gain to the Clay 15, Clay would change out Carter for senior tailback Cedric Brown for some shots at the Fleming Island interior defense and Brown would get the ball four times in a row with the final shot a fourth and three stab at the Clay 32 that Hudgens and safety Isaiah Walker smothered for a two yard loss and a Fleming Island first down in scoring position.
“These guys play for each because they love each other out there,” said Fleming Island defensive coordinator Steven Creech. “We are pretty senior oriented up front. They play hard for each other. Will (Hudgins) and Jose (Concepcion) really stepped up and made plays.”
McBride got his first glance at green grass with a 14 yard gain to the Clay 20, but Clay defensive lineman Kenneth Johnson smashed McBride at the line of scrimmage to force a field goal from Coussens and a 10-0 Fleming Island lead with 5:29 left in the half.
Clay again went to the air with Eason finding slot back Spencer LeSage in front of defender Eugene Oglesby on a sideline pattern for 14 yards to midfield. Handoffs to LeSage and Brown fell prey to pursuit from Gooden and linebacker Jack Surgeoner with Eason misfiring on a third down pass to Belanger and forcing a punt.
Hancher’s punt would roll to the Fleming Island 17 to start the drive where Hyams went right to Ferendo for 33 yards in front of defender Marcus Dixon to the 35 yard line. A scramble by Hyams and a late hit flag put Fleming Island on the Clay 33 where Bull got smashed by Clay nose tackle Colby Butler for a five yard loss.
Clay would give Fleming Island a second penalty flag to move the ball as Bull put up 22 yards on a sideline carry and facemask to the Clay 10 yard line with 1:21 left in the half.
Hyams would run to the one yard line where Coussens came in for a field goal to end the half at 13-0.
Clay kick returner Tymious Goodman rumbled for 24 yards to excite the Clay fans where Brown would again get the ball for successive handoffs to the Fleming Island 41. From there, senior tailback Christian Swilley was installed and got three handoffs to the Fleming Island 31 yard line as Clay started to push through the Fleming Island front seven.
At the Fleming Island 30, Clay stalled with Carter getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage by Jalyn Robinson, Gooden tipping an Eason pass attempt and Eason missing LeSage behind Oglethorpe near the 10 yard line to give Fleming Island the ball on downs a second time.
“Those two stops on fourth down were big; the one in the first half and the one on their first drive in the third because we bowed up and stopped them,” said Smenda. “They were not going to have their way against us.”
Fleming Island almost broke out on the first snap with McCaskill blasting behind slot back Max Michaels and Gooden for 26 yards, but a flag for an illegal sub put the ball at midfield.
For Clay, Griffis would again get into the passing pocket to sack Hyams that eventually forced a fourth down punt with 3:03 left in the quarter and the Blue Devil stadium awaiting yet another Clay comeback.
“I was able to get in on some stunts we were using,” said Griffis, a transfer from Bradford County.
Goodman would answer the call at running back for Clay with a 21 yard blast past Gooden and LeSage grabbing a quick post pattern over the middle to the Fleming Island 36. The big chunks kept coming for Clay with Swilley converting a fourth and four to the the Fleming Island 25.
At the Fleming Island 24, Eason went to Belanger for a quick score, but Oglethorpe got tagged with an interference flag as the two got tangled at the goal line as the pass flew by.
Goodman would complete the scoring drive from nine yards out as the Fleming Island sideline took a collective breath as Clay seemed to be revving their fourth quarter engine down just 13-6 with most of the fourth quarter still to go.
With kicker Liz Fogarty in to give Clay their seventh point, Smenda smashed through the Clay line and hammered the kick to keep the Blue Devils at six points.
“Even though it was just a point, that block got the offense cranked up to get an insurance score,” said Smenda. “The whole offense got pumped by that block. They knew they were going to score.”
That “energy” found its way to the legs of McCaskill on first down at the 28 for seven yards then McBride on second down for a mere 65 yards to paydirt as the Fleming Island sideline erupted as McBride finished off the final 10 yards of his scoring jaunt. Coussens finished the scoring with a PAT kick and a 20-6 lead for Fleming Island.
“In the first half, I think I turned my ankle, but it got better over halftime,” said McBride, who transferred from Bradford County High School where he teamed with Clay’s Carter for a district 5-4A title.
Goodman almost answered with a kickoff return to the Clay 35, but, on first down, Walker knifed in from his safety position to nail Eason for a five yard loss and Robinson punched up Carter for a yard loss. Bull was all over Belanger on a pass attempt and Clay was rudely forced to punt.
“I think they were expecting a linebacker to come,” said Springs. “We may have surprised them bringing Walker.”
Hancher’s punt rolled to the Fleming Island 23 where McBride “deja vu-ed” his way to paydirt a second time to rack up a 27-6 Fleming Island lead amidst a frenzied sideline with 6:29 left in the game.
“He was out there in the first half, but Dean was finding guys with passes,” said Springs. “He knocked the gas right out of them in the second half.”
McBride finished with 167 yards on just seven carries with two scores.
Clay’s comeback history seemed unable to get started and on the ensuing drive, Eason connected calmly with Belanger twice to the Clay 39 where Bull nearly snagged an interception to set up a third and one with four minutes remaining.
Swilley twice produced zero yards and Fleming Island had its third turnover on downs to end the game.