FLEMING ISLAND - An interception on the first pass of the game; by defensive back London Jenkins, got Fleming Island’s flag football team to the Sandalwood two yard line with a Gabi Musa score to …
FLEMING ISLAND - An interception on the first pass of the game; by defensive back London Jenkins, got Fleming Island’s flag football team to the Sandalwood two yard line with a Gabi Musa score to follow as the Golden Eagles held on to a 20-19 Class 2A region playoff Wed., April 26 at Fleming Island High School.
In the Panhandle for their first Class 1A playoff game, Ridgeview ended their season with a 40-0 loss to Choctowhatchee.
“It’s an old saying the defense wins championships and these girls held against a very talented Sandalwood (8-5) team,” said Fleming Island coach Clint Lyons, now 13-0 and set to host a second playoff game on Wed., May 3 against Pace High. Pace is 15-4 and advanced also with a 20-19 win; this one over Winter Park. “Gabi broke through on her rush on the fourth down on their PAT attempt to seal the game.”
Fleming Island entered the playoffs as the region top seed with Spruce Creek second and Pace fourth. Spruce Creek (18-1) will host New Smyrna Beach (12-6) in the other half of the semifinal brackets. Spruce Creek beat Fletcher 20-13 to advance with New Smyrna Beach beating Chiles 14-12.
In 2022, Fleming Island defeated Pace 19-7 in the region final to advance to the Class 2A Final Four but lost to Western 34-13 in their state semifinal. Western, 13-2 and ranked second in 2A, is the defending Class 2A champion. Fleming Island is ranked fifth. Pace, 14-4, is ranked 21st.
From the defense, Lyons got a solid second half rush effort from freshman Daisy Fletcher to keep the Sandalwood attack, led by lefty quarterback Ashley Purdy, under wraps with the quick-reacting Fleming Island secondary; Jenkins and safety Mykayla Maddox covering the open field with Musa and Megan Cobb handling the middle of the field passing attempts.
“We were not getting good grabs on their flags and they got a few extra yard plays after the initial catch,” said Lyons. “We will work on that because we got a little lucky that our pursuits were still running despite the missed pulls.”
Maddox would rip a 42 yard scoring run on the Golden Eagles next possession to up the score to 14-0 with a PAT to Allysa Langston and the game looked to be another 40-0 blowout by the high-octane Golden Eagle offense.
“We got a little lazy on defense with the quick scores and we can’t do that as we progress into the playoffs,” said Lyons.
Sandalwood answered in the second quarter with running back Kirsten Gudmalin ripped through the Fleming Island for a 25 yard pop just before the second quarter, but Sandalwood got hit on the next play with a hand guard on a pass play.
Musa saved a long touchdown pass and run shot with a diving save on receiver Elizabeth Faulk who broke for 30 yards to the Fleming Island 18.
Gudmalin would high step to the Fleming Island five yard line before a pass play got six inches from paydirt for Sandalwood who would score on a one yard run by Chernahy Blue, then score again on a 15 yard scoring pass to end the half at 14-13 with a missed extra point.
In the third, Maddox caught the Sandalwood defense sleeping and Jenkins made a spectacular bobbling catch and run for a 50 yard scoring play to put Fleming Island up 20-13.
Sandalwood was unwilling to go home and put together a long scoring drive that ended with a jump ball scoring pass on fourth down to Gudmalin to set up a game-tying PAT. With a stacked offensive front on the line of scrimmage looking to escort Purdy close enough to stretch in for the PAT, Musa broke behind the wall and nailed Gudmalin on a direct snap two yards away from the end zone to seal the game with 17 seconds on the clock.
“That took what our defense gave them and gave us a scare, but we held,” said Lyons.
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