Jenkins’ Pick Six ends defensive tightrope

By Randy Lefko
Posted 4/7/21

MIDDLEBURG - With a battle of two of the three remaining unbeaten high school flag football teams featuring offenses that have piled on nearly 40 points per game while …

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Jenkins’ Pick Six ends defensive tightrope

Posted

MIDDLEBURG - With a battle of two of the three remaining unbeaten high school flag football teams featuring offenses that have piled on nearly 40 points per game while giving up just 11 games, it was appropriate that a game that featured eight interceptions; two on the Clay goal line, would end on an interception returned for a touchdown.

“All season, she has been asking me to get the other team to throw to her side,” said Stilianou, commenting on a Pick Six interception return by freshman defender Cheyenne Jenkins with under two minutes left in a 0-0 deadlocked game between unbeaten Clay and unbeaten Middleburg. “Our rusher Desiree Hall, also a freshman, did her job all night; chasing their quarterback and making her hurry, and it paid off in the clutch. I can’t say enough about these girls staying the course out there amidst a lot of bad plays and mistakes against a great team.”

From the onset of the game, Middleburg, with the additional yards off two questionable pass interference calls, seemed to have control of the offensive side of the ball with two long drives behind rollout tosses from quarterback Brooke Swenson to center/wide receiver Jewel Taylor that moved the chains in increments of five to seven yards.

“We were just going be efficient, catch the football, keep moving forward and keep their offense on the sideline,” said Stilianou. “Our offense runs through Jewel Taylor, our senior midfield player.”

Twice in the first half, the Bronco strategy seemed to payoff, but twice; by Izzy Shadegg and by Kiley Burke, the Blue Devil defense, despite penalty flags for aggressive play, responded, with center rusher Johanna Hunter within arms’ reach of Swenson all night, in the throws of danger with interceptions in the Red Zone; inside the 10 yard line, to keep Middleburg at bay.

At the half, locked at 0-0, Middleburg was offensively throwing inside dump passes to Taylor with Stilianou’s daugher, Alexis, the offensive playcaller for the Broncos, setting up a few Hook and Ladder catch and laterals to maybe catch a break with speedster Meghan Bonsor trying to get the corner of the Blue Devil defense.

In the second half, Middleburg found success with wide wide out Sam Hardison becoming an outside target for Swenson getting bigger chunks of yardage and spreading the Clay defense at bit.

Clay got a third drive-ending interception with Amber Maturo snaring a deflection from Burke and carrying the ball past midfield for Clay lone drive start in Middleburg territory.

Jewel Taylor picked off Clay quarterback Dakota Hills late in the third with Clay near the Middleburg 40, but Hunter, on first down, snared Swenson for a five yard sack.

“They didn’t get much opportunity in our side of the field because of the great defensive effort,” said Stilianou.

Through the third quarter, both teams seemed unable to break the umbrella of pass coverage by both teams as both offenses stalled near midfield to force punts.

In the final stanza, Hardison made catch and turns for 8-10 yard gains that seemed to keep the Broncos on the move, but she did drop a wide open pass inside the five yard line on fourth down that could have converted to a score.

“We preach keep playing,” said Stilianou. “Everyone makes mistakes. It’s how you respond on the field and in life that shows your character.”

With Clay trying to find a deep pass play, Middleburg defender Meghan Bonsor came up with her own interception near midfield to turn the teams around and put Middleburg on Clay’s side of the field. Middleburg failed to move the ball and was forced to punt with Taylor smacking a high punt that hit Maturo in the face near the 40 yard line.

On first down, Hall forced Hills on a scramble that ended with Hills losing footing for a loss at 2:18 to go.

With two minutes left to find a winner, Taylor knocked down a Hills first pass on a first down play at the Clay 20. Annalee Harbison broke through two missed tackle attempts for a 22 yard gain inside the Middleburg 40 with 1:27 to go.

On the next play, Hill was all over chasing Hills to force an errant pass toward the Clay sideline that Jenkins jumped in front of and headed to paydirt.

“It’s a team effort with Desiree’s rushes forcing them to hurry their passes and unable to set up to throw deep,” said Jenkins. “I saw the route in front of me and just got in front of it.”

Jenkins would next catch the extra point pass to put Middleburg up 7-0.

On Clay’s final attempt to tie the game, Hills threw right to Mackenzie Eubank on a right sweep who stopped to throw, but found Swenson at safety for Middleburg to end the game.

“This was the practice game I’ve been telling them all week,” said Stilianou. “I figure we will have to play them again later in the playoffs. Now, they have played in the big game.”

Clay High (7-0)

27-0 over Ridgeview

46-6 over Bradford

39-0 over Englewood (Izzy Shadegg, TD pass, INT pass in first half, Annalee Harbison great rushing day)

39-0 over Englewood

34-0 over Westside

38-0 over Wolfson

Lost 7-0 to Middleburg

Thurs., April 8 vs. Orange Park

Tues., April 13 at Fleming Island (2-0)

Ridgeview (1-5)

Lost 27-0 to Clay

Lost 33-0 to MHS

Lost 19-0 to Oakleaf

Lost 6-0 to Orange Park

Lost 16-13 to Keystone Heights

Won 27-0 over Bradford

Tues., April 6 vs. Englewood

Wed., April 7 vs. Westside

Tues., April 13 at Wolfson

Thurs., April 15 vs. Fleming Island

Fleming Island (5-0)

Beat Lee 38-0

Beat Oakleaf 20-0

Beat Flagler 40-6

Beat Atlantic Coast 45-0

Beat Keystone Heights 46-0

Mon., April 12 vs. Suwannee

Tues., April 13 vs. Clay

Thurs., April 15 at Ridgeview

Keystone Heights (5-3)

Beat Palatka 14-6

Beat Orange Park 6-0

Beat Crescent City 27-13

Lost to Matanzas 13-12

Lost to St. Augustine 27-12

Beat Ridgeview 16-13

Beat Palatka 12-0

Lost to Fleming Island 46-0

Fri., April 9 vs. Crescent City

Tues., April 13 at Middleburg

Thurs., April 15 at Oakleaf

Oakleaf (5-3)

Beat Westside 26-7

Beat Baker County 26-0

Lost to Fleming Island 20-0

Lost to Middleburg 19-7

Beat Ridgeview 19-0

Beat Atlantic Coast 45-7

Beat Fletcher 21-12

Lost 13-12 to Sandalwood

Tues., April 6 at Mandarin

Wed., April 7 vs. Flagler

Thurs., April 8 at Ed White

Tues., April 13 vs. Baker County

Thurs., April 15 vs. Keystone Heights

Middleburg (6-0)

Beat Wolfson 55-6

Beat Ridgeview 33-0

Beat Oakleaf 19-7

Beat Englewood 33-0

Beat Orange Park 43-0

Beat Clay 7-0

Thurs., April 8 at Westside

Tues., April 13 vs. Keystone Heights

Orange Park (3-5)

Lost to Westside 12-6

Beat Wolfson 19-6

Lost to St. Augustine 35-0

Lost to Keystone Heights 6-0

Beat Englewood 13-6

Beat Ridgeview 6-0

Lost to Middleburg 43-0

Lost to Ed White 6-0

Tues., April 6 vs. Bradford

Thurs., April 8 at Clay

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