Eagles nap in second half meltdown

By Ray DiMonda
Posted 9/19/18

GAINESVILLE - Fleming Island High football rushed behind a 225 yard game from senior tailback Aaron Ramirez to a 19-0 lead against district 3-7A foe Gainesville Buchholz, but let the lead dwindle in …

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Eagles nap in second half meltdown

Posted

GAINESVILLE - Fleming Island High football rushed behind a 225 yard game from senior tailback Aaron Ramirez to a 19-0 lead against district 3-7A foe Gainesville Buchholz, but let the lead dwindle in the second half and into overtime before losing 38-35 Friday night in Gainesville.

With Buchholz smarting from early season losses to powerhouses Ocala Vanguard and Columbia Lake City and Fleming Island returning key players to the lineup, the first half looked like the Golden Eagles retroactive to 2017 with a dominating first half performance from Ramirez and quarterback Dean Hyams, who shouldered four touchdown passes in the statistic-heavy opener.

The Bobcats would have the comeback of a lifetime to tie the game 35-35 with less than a minute to play, send the game into overtime and then intercept Hyams on Fleming Island’s first play in overtime. Only needing to put a point on the board to win, Buchholz kicked a field goal on first down to send the Golden Eagles packing back to Fleming Island for what must have been the longest ride home in Golden Eagle football, 38-35 in overtime.

“It was a lot of variables for the situations, so it’s not just the one thing,” said Fleming Island coach Damenyum Springs. “There is a lot of stuff we have to fix.”

The Golden Eagles won the coin flip and deferred the kickoff. With their stout defense, Fleming Island held the Bobcats to three downs and a punt.

On the punt, Ramirez fielded the ball for 12 of his yards on the night and Fleming Island would march 47 yards to strike first. Kicker Zachary Fletcher would get the point after kick for a 7-0 Eagles’ lead.

The next drive for the Bobcats would see Jacob Ashe let a pick six slip through his hands on second down before a

Buchholz punt. Fleming Island looked to Ramirez to start the drive, then on second down and eight to go, Hyams found tight end Sam Snyder for a 40 yard strike for score number two.

“The offense executed good the first half. Sam came up big, he caught some balls that he needed to catch,” said Springs. “Dean didn’t over-throw him and threw some really good strikes. They were on-point.”

Hyams ended the night with over 180 passing yards with four touchdowns.

On the point after, Fletcher would pull the ball left and miss, 13-0.

On the return drive, Buchholz would get one first down before punting again, but Ramirez got loose on a 40 yard scamper that resulted in no points.

In the second quarter, still driving, after a Fleming Island fumble and recovery that had the Golden Eagles staring at a second and 18, Hyams found last week’s standout Brody Domenico open in the endzone for the third Fleming Island unanswered score of 19-0.

Avery Coussens would get another audition at place kicker, but the snap was in the dirt.

The returning drive by Buchholz saw plenty of action from their go-to runner, 5’- 6”, 155 pounder EJ Cason. Cason would use his speed to dart around Golden Eagles all night with a 46 yarder resulting in the first Bobcat touchdown at 8:27 left in the second quarter.

Bobcat kicker Muhannad Farahat would be Mr. Automatic as he put the ball down the center each attempt, 19-7.

The next Fleming Island play could have been the play of the game. With a touchback putting the ball on the Fleming Island 20, on first down, Snyder went on a tear from the right side. Hyams saw him open and let it fly. On the catch, Snyder went 80 yard in one play to put the score at 25-7.

Springs would opt for a two-point conversion, only to have Hyams stopped on a QB option.

The returning Bobcat drive included a 40 yard pass. The deep pass exposed a chink in the armor of Fleming Island defense that would come back and hurt late in the game.

“We just have to tighten up when things get late into the quarters and stay mentally sharp,” said Springs. “Our guys stopped communicating. We just have to stay mentally sharp.”

The drive continued and resulted in another Bobcat score. 25-14. With 4:06 left to play until half, Ramirez would have another breakout run for 37 yards. The Eagles continued driving down the clock. With 33 seconds left until half, on second down with five yards to score, Hyams found Kaleb Seybolt all alone in the endzone for a 32-14 lead with Coussens’ kick.

At halftime, Buchholz made major adjustments.

“They came out and switched up some stuff on us and they executed it well,” said Springs.

As the fourth quarter started, both teams failed to move the ball until wide out Eugene Oglesby grabbed a 38 yard pass to set up a 30 yard field goal from Coussens to put the game at 35-14.

Starting on their 30 after a Fleming Island drive stalled, Buchholz would be intercepted by linebacker Darius Harris, but running back Brian Maddox fumbled the ball back to Buchholz.

Noting the deep coverage issue earlier in the game, Buchholz went deep and found a receiver yards deeper than the coverage for another touchdown with 4:51 left to play. Another good point after put the score at 35-27.

With an on-sides kick attempt recovered by Fleming Island, the Golden Eagles botched a fourth and one on their own 36 with Ramirez falling two inches short of the first down.

Buchholz took over with 1:52 left and converted a fourth and two for a first down that got more yards with a facemask flag to the Fleming Island 13.

With 1:23 left, an incomplete pass fell, but not before Fleming Island was called for pass interference. The half the distance to the goal penalty gave Buchholz 1:11 left to score. A run and two incomplete passes saw fourth down, three yards to score and 35.3 seconds left in the game. The play action to EJ Cason drew in the secondary and left Bobcat Blake Mitchell all alone for an easy pass score. Needing two points to tie, Bobcat quarterback Camden Orth found Isaiah Mitchem in the endzone for the two- point conversion.

On the ensuing kickoff, Fleming had 30.8 seconds to try anything they could. A deep pass to Max Micheals fell, a scramble by Hyams and a no-time left interception would send the game into overtime.

Fleming Island lost the coin flip and Buchholz chose to defend first. On the first play, Hyams saw an open Sam Snyder coming from right to left. His pass was slightly behind Snyder and was picked off by Bobcat Victor Nelson.

Denying the Golden Eagles in one play, the Bobcats needed only score and they win. On first down, they set up to attempt a field goal. Fleming Island lined up in the neutral zone and even though the ball sailed perfect, the play was blown dead. On the second Muhannad Farahat attempt, Springs tried to “ice the kicker” and called time out. The ball again sailed perfect, but didn’t count as the whistle sounded before the play.

On the third attempt, Farahat again was perfect and sent the Golden Eagles home 38-35 in overtime. Asked about rebounding from this, Springs said “They’ll come back. Come back ready to play. They know they played a great game.”

Don’t be surprised this week if an email goes out from the Fleming Island athletic department to all members of the boy’s and girls’ soccer teams looking for a young man or woman to come out and audition for the starting role as the Golden Eagle place kicker. Fleming Island returns home to try and keep their perfect intra-Clay County record as the face the visiting Ridgeview Panthers. Ridgeview, 3-1 on the season, is coming off a 39-25 home loss from Palatka.

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