Eagles fumble away playoff hopes

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 11/17/21

GAINESVILLE - Starting with a first quarter punt muff on their own one yard line, the Fleming Island High football team could only get downfield twice in 48 minutes as the Buchholz Bobcats stuck a …

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Eagles fumble away playoff hopes

Posted

GAINESVILLE - Starting with a first quarter punt muff on their own one yard line, the Fleming Island High football team could only get downfield twice in 48 minutes as the Buchholz Bobcats stuck a 35-7 region 1-7A loss on the Eagles Thursday night at Citizens Field.

“Young guys making young mistakes and us as coaches not preparing them to make decisions,” said Fleming Island coach Damenyum Springs. “That one yard punt fumble hit us hard and we went downhill from there.”

Buchholz, now 10-1 and moving into the region semifinals against University High, a winner over Fletcher, had its way with the Eagles secondary with quarter Creed Whittemore slicing up the field with quick slants and skinny posts that created scoring time and time again.

For Fleming Island, with two key offensive linemen out for illness and a shuffled deck in the front five that included freshman Braden Cunningham stepping up to play center, freshman quarterback Cibastian Broughton kept rising from the turf after bone-chilling sacks and tackles for loss to keep the Golden Eagles upright. Broughton’s best play was a 37 yard scamper in the first half that saw him get missiled after falling out of bounds, but with no flag for obvious late hit.

“We saw some good things from our young guys tonight, especially Cibastian who got beat up all night,” said Springs. “

The snowball effect amped up for the Eagles with a 40 yard punt return and a 27 yard scoring pass for the Bobcats to put the score at 14-0.

The Bobcats got a second passing score on a fourth and seven pass play from 37 yards out that landed in the Eagle end zone. Fleming Island did have outstanding defensive play from secondary corner Kaylib Singleton on a bomb from Whittemore to 6’-2” wide out Adrian Sermons that Singleton got his hands on at the apex of his defensive leap that Sermons swiped to put the Bobcats in the Eagle red zone. Singleton earlier in the first quarter knocked down a bomb attempt to force the Bobcat punt that led to the punt muff and score at just 9:50 of the first quarter.

Linebacker Jhace Edwards had his hands on a Bobcat quick slant play that could have been returned for a score, but could not capture the pass. Up front on defense, sophomore defensive end Joey Couch and freshman defensive tackle Khalil Matthews kept the pressure on Whittemore, but the quick-thinking quarterback was able to sneak away and continue to make plays.

Sophomore kick returner Cartavion Valentine did excite the Eagle fans with a 45 yard kickoff return to midfield in the second half. A 12 yard pass play put the Bobcats up 35-0 at the half with Springs able to opt to a running clock. In the second half, with Buchholz running hard to end the game quickly, Fleming Island opened the offense with some pass plays, including a third quarter 45 yard Broughton to Caleb Jones bomb to the Bobcat 35. Broughton almost hit Jones a second time on a go route, but just barely overthrew the fleet-footed wideout on the last play of the game. Near the end of the fourth quarter, the Eagles forced a Bobcat punt from near the Bobcat 22 and the entire Eagles’ sideline, including befuddled defensive coach Sean Coultis, was yelling “Go get it.”

With that, the Eagles bombarded the punt into the end zone where Edwards scooped it up for the Eagles lone score of the night.

“We just wanted to make a play to end the game,” said Edwards. “We got the go get it and we just went after it and got lucky.”

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