FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High football drew first blood in the chase for the district 3-7A title with a 27-0 blowout of defending champion Gainesville Buchholz behind strong running from …
FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High football drew first blood in the chase for the district 3-7A title with a 27-0 blowout of defending champion Gainesville Buchholz behind strong running from senior tailback Chauncey Garrison and a fleet of wideouts making highlight reel catches for sophomore quarterback Dean Hyams.
“Everyone stepped up for this big district game,” said Fleming Island coach Damenyum Springs, now 4-0. “We are starting to click.”
With the win, and with Oakleaf’s scheduled district game against Bartram Trail postponed until October 6, the Golden Eagles now look forward to three weeks of power football with unbeaten 5A-Ridgeview High on Friday followed by Oakleaf, a BYE week, then Bartram Trail. Bartram Trail, 2-1, has been averaging near 50 points per game with their most recent game a 49-28 win over Clay High School.
“One game at a time,” said Springs. “We’ll deal with Bartram Trail when they get here.”
From the opening whistle, Fleming Island’s defense got tested quickly from Buchholz’ versatile quarterback Trent Whittemore, who threw and ran the ball to the corners of the Golden Eagle defense efficiently to set up a first down at the Golden Eagle 27 in what looked like a sleepy opening series for Fleming Island.
From there, Fleming Island executed their first of many fourth down stops behind linemen Jose Concepcion, Jalyn Robinson and defensive end Jake Libretto.
Robinson, with two sacks, a tackle for loss and four tackles, was the focal point of the Golden Eagle attack as Whittemore was constantly under pressure from all angles.
“Honestly, our front line played the best game of the season just now,” said Fleming Island defensive coordinator Stephen Creech. “Jalyn Robinson, Josh Harris and Jake Libretto all played awesome. With our linebackers able to get around, the front line stays basic, contains and creates opportunities for those linebackers to make tackles.”
Fleming Island got the ball at their own 18 after the defensive stand, but could not capitalize on two nifty pass plays from tailback Anfernee McCaskill who had catch and runs for 12 and 11 yards to put Fleming Island at midfield, but a sack of Hyams stalled the drive.
“The offensive line is getting more and more confident,” said McCaskill, who finished with 43 rushing yards, two passes for 12 and nine yards and a 65 yard kickoff return after the halftime break to the Buchholz 30 yard line. “I’m small and can hide behind my big blockers.”
After a three and out series for Buchholz, Fleming Island started to get some traction on the ground with McCaskill again getting the big plays on a 13-play scoring drive that ended with linebacker-fullback Ryan Smenda smashing in from three yards out to put Fleming Island up 7-0. Smenda helped his own cause with a well-timed fake punt run at midfield on fourth and two that put the Golden Eagles on the Bobcat 31 yard line, a gain of 14 yards.
Garrison, who finished with 50 yards rushing and two scores caught his only pass of the night; a 20 yard screen to set up Smenda’s dash to paydirt. Fleming Island also benefited from a pass interference call on a pass in the end zone to tight end Nick Ferendo.
From there on, Fleming Island’s defense took control of the game with Robinson pressuring all night from the middle of the line of scrimmage.
Ferendo set up Fleming Island’s next score with a 30 yard pass behind McCaskill on the sideline that put the Golden Eagles on the Bobcat 10. Garrison took three shots behind offensive line leader Darius Gooden before crashing in from nine yards out.
“After a long week of no practice from the Hurricane, we worked really hard to get back to our game,” said Gooden, who teamed with Sam Snyder and Austin Abood to keep the paths clear for the Fleming Island ball carriers. “The scheme this week also included using Ferendo on some traps leading the back through the hole.”
Just before the halftime break, after kickoff specialist Noah Hamlett made a shoestring tackle at the Fleming Island 34 on the ensuing kickoff, Fleming Island linebacker Jackson Bull intercepted a sideline pass to put the Golden Eagles in the locker room up 14-0.
“The best way to have good pass coverage is pressure up front,” said Bull. “As long as the defensive line plays like this all season, we are going to get opportunities in the secondary.”
In the third quarter, McCaskill blasted off from the 20 yard line on the kickoff and found a seam along the Fleming Island sideline to the Bobcat 30. Garrison stiff-armed for 10 yards before wideout Jared Ashe scored off a post pattern pass play from 33 yards out to put Fleming Island up 21-0 with 10:14 left in the third.
Buchholz would get two fourth down failures in their next two series with Libretto, Josh Hughes and Marquavious Wright smashing one and safety Isaiah Walker blitzing and causing an incompletion to the second.
Fleming Island scored their final touchedown with Garrison crunching in from four yards out after McCaskill followed Ferendo for a 15 yard run to the Bobcat 15.