Spartans explode in second half bonanza

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 9/28/22

ORANGE PARK - Two 65 yard scoring pass plays ignited a come-from-behind win for the St. Johns Country Day School 8-man football team who blasted to a thrilling 29-26 win Friday night against Calvary …

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Spartans explode in second half bonanza


ORANGE PARK - Two 65 yard scoring pass plays ignited a come-from-behind win for the St. Johns Country Day School 8-man football team who blasted to a thrilling 29-26 win Friday night against Calvary Chapel Academy out of West Melbourne. St. Johns wins their third straight to improve to 3-1 while Calvary falls to 0-5.

“I told you, these kids just don’t quit,” said St. Johns coach Rocky Bantag. “I think the biggest improvement we have seen is the team tackling. Coach Cory Rogers has been working all season on making good, quality stops in the open field and the kids have responded. Owen Johnston was a monster in the middle of the defensive line while Caleb Cameron kept pressure on their quarterback all night.”

After spotting Calvary a 14-6 first quarter lead with a rushing touchdown and a passing score, St. Johns got on the board with George Friedline blasting from eight yards out.

In the second period, Corban Berrang socked a 33 yard field goald to close the gap to 14-9, but Calvary’s rugged run game struck to up the game to 20-6.

“We were trying to establish a run attack, but we decided to throw a little more to loosen up the defense,” said Bantag.

Loosen up the defense he did, as Bantag dialed up a 65 yard scoring strike from quarterback Caden Burchfield to Ian Mamea that had fans rushing back to the field from the concession stands amidst the crowd response from those already back in their seats with the special Shrimp and Grits snacks.

“That was a momentum changer,” said Bantag, noting Burchfield finished with 253 yards via air with Friedline rushing for 74 yards.

In the third, after Mamea’s score, both teams nearly snagged scores off miscues with St. Johns linebacker Shane Reaves nearly intercepting a pass and then Reaves recovering a potential punt muff deep in Spartan territory. Calvary also blocked a St. Johns punt from the Spartan goal line that gave Calvary first down at the Spartan 16.

Cameron and Johnston continued to break into the Calvary backfield to disrupt the play as Calvary got stuck with a third and 10 at the St. Johns 16. Calvary misfired on an end zone pass play to go to fourth down with a fumble giving St. Johns a first down.

Still down 20-15, St. Johns’ fans started to smell a gamewinner in the fourth quarter after an overtime win last week.

With Burchfield spreading the field with passes to Bodie Brafford including a sideline 40 yarder that Brafford just stepped out of bounds on to put St. Johns at midfield with Friedline keeping the defense honest with off tackle blasts. Burchfield missed on a long pass and Friedline got stuffed to give the Eagles possession near midfield.

Johnston jacked up Eagles quarterback Patrick Baker to give Calvary a third and 18 situation. Baker found a mismatch in his 6’-3” wide receiver Kaleb Steiger going up against 5’-8” Jacob Miller and the mismatch got a 40 yard gain to the Spartan 25 at 3:37.

With a fourth and two at the Spartan 20, Cameron blasted through for a tackle for loss and a first down for St. Johns. St. Johns got to midfield, but fumbled away at midfield as the fourth quarter started.

St. Johns would start at their own 24 after a Calvary punt with Burchfield hitting Walsh on a drag pass. Walsh wiggled his way through a trio of tacklers before being escorted downfield by Mamea to paydirt for his own 65 yard scoring play.

Now up 22-20 with 8:43 to go, Friedline crashed again from three yards out to push St. Johns to a 29-20 lead with Brafford hitting a PAT kick before Calvary got a long pass for the final score of the night; 29-26.

Brafford ended the game with a toe-touch catch on third down to keep the final drive in tact.


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