FERNANDINA BEACH - Middleburg High running back T.J. Lane offered up a second 300-plus yard offensive showcase with 321 yards and four scores against Fernandina Beach in a 28-14 Bronco win that …
FERNANDINA BEACH - Middleburg High running back T.J. Lane offered up a second 300-plus yard offensive showcase with 321 yards and four scores against Fernandina Beach in a 28-14 Bronco win that propelled the Broncos into the Class 3S region playoffs on Friday.
"I didn't do this by myself," said Lane. "My O-Line, my offense coordinator, my whole team just stepped up in the second half of the season. It has been a long time for Middleburg in the playoffs.
Middleburg coach Ryan Wolfe remembered that the Clay High football 2013 team that he was part of years ago that went to the Class 5A state final opened their season at 1-4 before running the rest of the 10-5 season to the championship game (a 66-9 loss to American Heritage with the likes of Sony Michel at RB (now Los Angeles Chargers) and Patrick Surtain Jr. (now Denver Broncos).
"These guys tonight have played in a few games against state champion level teams, they are battle tested and they believe in the system now," said Wolfe, after his win over Fernandina Beach. "We kept telling them we were going to get hot at the right time and get through the juggernaut schedule we had to open the season."
Escambia, 7-3 with back-to-back season opening losses; 14-11 to West Florida (7-2) and 26-15 to Gulfport (9-2), won five of their last six games with a loss to unbeaten (9-0) Pine Forest on October 21.
Escambia's season then became a set of excruciatingly close game scores wrapped around just two blowouts; a 35-7 win over Fort Walton Beach and a 41-0 win over Milton.
Escambia got an 18-15 win over Booker T. Washington (5-5) followed by a 28-27 thriller over Choctwhatchee (5-5) and two wins over two teams at 1-9; Tate and Pensacola High.
The Gators feature a hot quarterback slinger in senior Ammiel Steele who has over 2,000 passing yards with 19 touchdowns (11 interceptions) with two running backs with just over 400 yards apiece. Wolfe's secondary will surely be tested if Suggs, Carter and Cody don't get pressure.
Top target is 5'-8" Akeem Stokes, No. 1, with 67 catches and nine scores.
Middleburg opened with losses to Hawthorne (8-0), Bishop Kenny (8-2), Bradford (9-1) and Ponte Vedra (5-5), all but Ponte Vedra in region playoffs. The Broncos fifth loss was to No. 3-Columbia (vs. No. 6-Lincoln) who is in opposite bracket to Middleburg if both teams win quarterfinals.
The rest of the Region 1-3S bracket features No. 1 Pine Forest (9-0) vs. No. 8 Rickards (4-6) and No. 4-St. Augustine (7-3) vs. No. 5 Choctawhatchee (5-5).
Against Fernandina Beach, Lane's powerful running opened with a 50 (on second carry of game) and 21 yarder to open the game to a 14-0 Bronco lead with a short one in the second quarter for a 21-0 lead into the half. Lane would go 40 yards in the fourth quarter for his final touchdown putting Middleburg up 28-7.
"Obviously, we got hot to finish the season but we did not play great tonight," said Wolfe. "Even though this was an ugly win, sometimes you have to win the ugly one to prove that even when you don't play well, you can still get the win. Middleburg did not win a lot of these ugly games before and Fernandina is a good football team. They did the same thing last week against Yulee and almost won the game in the fourth quarter after being down 21-0."
Fernandina Beach opened with a pass-strong drive inside the Bronco 40 before a pass breakup on third down from Toshombee Jenkins forced a punt into the end zone at 7:19 in the first quarter.
Runs by Lane and quarterback Jaydan Jenkins got Middleburg to their own 43 before some ugly plays got the Broncos a third and 22 situation before Jenkins rolled and cut left for 20 yards to the Pirate 40 yard line with Lane pushing to the 20 before rumbling left side to the end zone for his second score at 3:15 still in the first quarter.
Fernandina Beach worked to the Bronco red zone with 26.6 seconds left in the quarter with a stop for second and goal ending the quarter.
Facing second and goal as the quarter opened, the Bronco defense got stacked in the middle by defensive tackle Demarion Suggs and linebacker Austin Cruce with defensive back Trenton Robinson knocking down an end zone pass on third down.
On fourth down at the goal line, linebacker Kendrick O'Neal smothered a goal line pass to give the Broncos possession on downs two yards out from the end zone.
In the second half, both teams seemed bent on making the game sloppy with turnovers and penalty flags dictating the game before Fernandina Beach started hitting passes over the middle to score two late touchdowns; one at 8:53 left in the third to put the score at 21-7.
On the ensuing kickoff, Aidan Postemski nearly broke away before being upended near midfield on the return. A quick kick by Jenkins pushed Fernandina Beach on their own 20 after an unsportsmanlike flag on Postemski after a hard tackle after a pass catch stalled the drive.
Fernandina Beach again moved through the air with passes into the meat of the Broncos' secondary before Toshombee Jenkins batted away an end zone pass attempt off a halfback pass option play.
Fernandina Beach stalled to a fourth down and five on the Bronco 25 before Jenkins again broke up an end zone pass attempt.
Lane got his engine revved one more time with a romp to the Pirate 45 yard line off left tackle, but failed to advance.
"We know if we keep plugging up front that T.J. is going to run hard all night," said Middleburg senior center Dakota Gerber. "Austin's fumble was the game changer."
Fernandina Beach took over at their own 20 and got a up tempo pass rush from the Bronco front three; Tucker Cody, Demarion Suggs and BJ Carter to force quick passes on the edges to move downfield.
With 6:24 to go, Bronco linebacker Austin Cruce jumped on a fumble to stymie the Pirate drive.
Jenkins tried to give the ball back on a fumbled snap on the first snap. Jenkins hit Postemski on a sideline pass to get Middleburg to midfield at 4:51.
Lane blasted 26 yards for his final score to push the score to 28-7 with 4:40 to go.
Fernandina Beach squeezed one more score on a three defenders vs. one receiver situation in the end zone to close the score to 28-14.
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