OAKLEAF – Fleming Island High kicker Noah Hamlett kicked a 38 yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to seal a 13-7 district 3-7A win over Oakleaf High in a critical game Sept. 29 at Oakleaf …
OAKLEAF – Fleming Island High kicker Noah Hamlett kicked a 38 yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to seal a 13-7 district 3-7A win over Oakleaf High in a critical game Sept. 29 at Oakleaf High School.
“Our goals are to win championships—the district, the region and the state,” said Fleming Island coach Damenyum Springs. “We try to think big.”
Fleming Island, now 6-0, 2-0 in district play with a 27-0 win over defending district champion Gainesville Buchholz earlier in the season, takes a BYE week to recharge and ready up for a showdown with Bartram Trail High School that will determine the district champions. Oakleaf, 1-4, 0-1 with the loss, still has an outside shot at the playoffs but must run the table with upcoming district games against BartramTrail, Buchholz and Creekside then hope for some help from Fleming Island.
“We have to take care of the football, start fast and finish strong,” said Oakleaf coach Steve Reynolds.
Against Oakleaf, Fleming Island sophomore running back Dewayne McBride, the hero against Clay High in their season opening win with two second half scores, ran for 95 yards and a touchdown to keep the Golden Eagles unbeaten.
With senior tailback Anfernee McCaskill out of the game with an injury and Chauncey Garrison, II, out with severe cramping, McBride lined up at running back almost exclusively in the second half and provided a spark with his tough running that they had not had in the first two quarters.
After Oakleaf held the Golden Eagles to minus two yards rushing in the first half, McBride ran for 89 on 13 second half carries. His 40 yard scoring run with 3:45 remaining in the third quarter gave Fleming Island its first lead and embodied his running style. The sophomore ran right, broke a tackle, and was hit by several Knights. McBride fell along with— and on top of— the defenders, so that no part of him touched the ground. Regaining his footing, the sophomore sprinted all the way to the goal line, stunning Oakleaf.
“McBride gets his feet behind his shoulder pads and keeps running,” said Fleming Island coach Damenyum Springs. “He did what he does.”
McBride’s output was enough to keep Fleming Island atop District 3-7A with a 2-0 district mark, thanks to the effort of the Golden Eagles defense. The unit, which entered the game ranked fifth in North Florida in total defense, held Oakleaf running back Keshawn King, who was averaging 132 rushing yards per game, to 80 yards on 22 carries and forced him to lose a fumble. King averaged only 3.6 yards per carry Friday, less than half of his 7.8 average entering the game.
“Our game plan was to stop number four [King],” said Springs after the game. “He is a great back, but we have got some good guys, too.”
The defense also set up Hamlet’s two field goals. Fleming Island’s Jackson Bull snagged a Demonte’ Stephens fumble out of midair at the Knights 18 yard line in the second quarter, resulting in a 32 yard field goal by Hamlet, the Golden Eagles’ first points. Cornerback Bobby Brown picked off a Tre Simmons pass at near midfield and returned it to the Knights 38 yard line early in the fourth quarter. The ensuing drive stalled, but Hamlet converted from 38 yards out with seven minutes remaining to provide the final margin. Defensive tackle Josh Harris recovered a fumble for the Golden Eagles to go with a sack and two tackles for loss.
Oakleaf had gotten the better of their guests in the first half with a defense every bit as dominant as the Golden Eagles’. Led by end Chantz Williams and tackle Javiera Bovell, Oakleaf held Fleming Island to three points and two first downs in the first two quarters. Williams was unblockable, registering four tackles for loss by halftime. Bovell had two sacks, a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery. Safety Zechariah Nesby stepped in front of a seam route to make an interception at the Oakleaf 16 yard line to end a Golden Eagles scoring threat.
Though the Knights offense struggled, two big plays gave Oakleaf an early lead. First, Simmons, a freshman, connected with flanker Jakari Williams on a post pattern for a 34 yard gain. On the next play, King broke through a hole up the middle, cut right and outran the Golden Eagles safeties to the end zone from 30 yards out.
Sixty-four of the Knights’ 99 first half yards came on those two plays. They did not threaten again until their final drive. Taking possession at their own 30 with 0:45 remaining, Simmons connected with Williams up the left sideline for 38 yards. A screen pass to King netted nine more yards, bringing the ball to the Golden Eagles 22. Forced to spike the ball to stop the clock because King was tackled in bounds, Oakleaf faced fourth down and one yard to go with 10 seconds left. Ignoring late pressure from Fleming Island end Jake Libretto, Simmons lofted a high ball to the far right corner of the end zone. Williams, who led all pass catchers with 98 receiving yards on five receptions, outjumped two Golden Eagles defenders and got both his hands on the ball, but could not hold onto it as he hit the turf. Fleming Island’s Dean Hyams took a knee to run out the final two seconds, leaving the Knights to ponder their third loss by seven points or less.
“Tre did a great job of getting the ball there, and JW [Jakari Williams] did a great job of getting himself into position,” said Reynolds of the final pass play. “I just wish it had worked out.”
The game might not have come down to the final play were it not for penalties that nullified two apparent Golden Eagles touchdowns. Aaron Ramirez took a bubble screen pass from Hyams 31 yards to the end zone in the fourth quarter, but the ball was brought back due to a holding call. Brown took his interception back to the end zone, but the score was nullified by a personal foul. An interception by Eugene Oglesby was taken away by an interference call. The Golden Eagles were penalized 13 times for 105 yards. Oakleaf incurred six penalties for 45 yards.
“There were multiple times when they could have hung their heads and started pointing fingers, but that is not what we are made of,” said Springs.