JACKSONVILLE – The Orange Park Raiders played their third straight game against a higher classification school on a short week, falling to Atlantic Coast 23-13 on Thursday at Atlantic Coast …
JACKSONVILLE – The Orange Park Raiders played their third straight game against a higher classification school on a short week, falling to Atlantic Coast 23-13 on Thursday at Atlantic Coast High School.
Not to mention having to go on the road a day earlier as all schools scrambled to get their teams prepared to play and prepared their families for Hurricane Irma which was making a B line toward the state of Florida.
“It’s not a secret that we start seven sophomores on defense which four of those guys are under 155 pounds. Even with that, I think we played a solid game overall defensively” said Orange Park head coach Tom Macpherson.
Looking at both with the naked eye one could tell there was a distinct size advantage for the Atlantic Coast Stingrays; and they showed it on their first drive.
Stingray running back Zavion McHellon had a 35 yard run to the Orange Park 10 yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Terry Gilliam Jr found Travon Wallace on a seven yard touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
The Raiders, having lost their starting quarterback, A.J. Mealer, for the season with a broken leg, looked to wideout Terrance Johnson to lead the offense.
“We played solid but it just wasn’t enough to win. Although I think we are getting better and growing up heading into district play” said McPherson. “ “Having lost our starting quarterback for the year we need to find a way as coaches to put our players in postions to be successful even if that means cutting down the size of our playbook.”
The Raider offense looked solid early especially when Johnson found wideout David Frederick on a 35 yard pass to the Stingray 23 yard line. Johnson would call his own number later in the drive on a third down run to the eight yard line. Johnson would score from the four yard line after an Atlantic Coast penalty and the Raiders would tie the game at 7-7 with 4:13 left in the first quarter.
The undersized Raider defense would force a punt after a third down sack by Shaq Magwood.
The Raider offense would stall out after a 36 yard run by running back Zykiem Sermons. The Raiders special teams would impact the game after a perfect punt would be downed at the one foot line by Isiah Blair to pin the Stingrays deep in their own territory.
The Stingrays responded with a quick 32 yard run plus a 15 yard late hit penalty giving Atlantic Coast great field postion at midfield after just one play. Gilliam converted two third down runs to keep the drive alive to increase the lead to 13-7 after a missed extra point midway through the second quarter. The defenses would stiffen for both teams and that would be the score headed into the second half.
In the third period, the Stingrays would get a 50 yard run by Jamari Broussard to set up first and goal at the three yard line. After a tackle for loss and penalty, quarterback Travon Wallace threw a 20 yard touchdown pass to give Atlantic Coast a 20-7 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter.
Raider defensive lineman Kendy Charles blocked a Stingray punt to give Orange Park a first down at the Atlantic Coast 10 yard line, but the Raiders gave up the ball on downs.
Adding to the defensive stop, Wallace would take the first play of the drive 80 yards to the Orange Park 15 yard line, but the Raider defense would hold the Stingrays to a field goal with 6:45 left in the game.
Orange Park kick returner Marquise Brown would take the kickoff to midfield to give the Raider offense another short field to work with. Johnson would gain 17 yards to the Stingray 33 yard line. Orange Park would get a big break after a high snap resulted in a loss of 10 yards but a targeting penalty by the Stingrays gave the Raiders a first down at the Atlantic Coast 19 yard line.The drive would stall and Orange Park would again turn the ball over on downs.
The Raiders would get the ball back at the Stingray 35 yard line late in the fourth quarter. Johnson hit Brown on a 26 yard touchdown pass with 2:27 left in the game and an opportunity to cut the lead to one possession with a two point conversion. They would be unable to get the conversion and the Stingrays would be able to recover the onside kick and run out the clock for a 23-13 win.
The Raiders have played three games (All against higher classification schools) and although they are 0-3 heading into district play under the new playoff point system they earned as many points from losing to larger schools as winning against smaller schools. They open district play next against the Clay Blue Devils.