Upset win pushes Eagles to playoffs

By Mike Zima Correspondent
Posted 11/11/21

FLEMING ISLAND - Two-way star Jhace Edward dominated on both sides of the ball, scoring 30 points as host Fleming Island gave itself a chance at a Class 7A playoff berth with a 49-34 win over Oakleaf …

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Upset win pushes Eagles to playoffs


FLEMING ISLAND - Two-way star Jhace Edward dominated on both sides of the ball, scoring 30 points as host Fleming Island gave itself a chance at a Class 7A playoff berth with a 49-34 win over Oakleaf on November 6.
Edward ran for four touchdowns and three two-point conversions as a wildcat quarterback and had three tackles for loss and an interception in the red zone from his inside linebacker position. The junior was on the field for 90 of the game’s 126 plays from scrimmage, but said he was never tired.
“This game meant a lot to me,” said Edward. “I had not beaten these guys [Oakleaf] since junior high,” referring to the Knights’ two-game winning streak in the series entering the game.
Edward gained 83 yards on 14 rushes, much of it on a play that the Golden Eagles put in their playbook for the Knights. The formation featured a wingback behind each tackle, with a fullback lined up next to Edward in the shotgun. Both wingbacks and the fullback would plow through the gap between the guard and the tackle, with Edward following behind them.
“We took a play from Bartram [Trail] that we had seen on film,” said Springs, referring to the Bears’ 49-33 win over Oakleaf on October 22. “We were able to get three blockers on one linebacker.”
Oakleaf nose guard Akeem Neal recovered a botched handoff on the first play from scrimmage, but Edward erased the turnover with an interception at the Golden Eagles’ 13 yard line.
The theft led to Edward’s first touchdown, a leap over a mass of humanity from one yard out that gave Fleming Island a 6-0 lead four minutes into the game. Edward’s second touchdown came after Isaiah “Shevy” Shevchook had pulled Oakleaf to within 19-17 in the final seconds of the first half with a one yard plunge. Seeing that the Knights had shifted an outside linebacker to the inside to stop Edwards from running between the guard and the tackle, Springs began sending Edward and his convoy of blockers outside, leading Edward around the end. Edward swept left from 14 yards out to put Fleming Island ahead 25-17, then ran the same play for an easy two-point conversion to extend the lead to 27-17. When the Knights scored touchdowns on two consecutive drives in the fourth quarter, Edward kept them at bay with touchdown runs of 16 and six yards. He followed up each of those scores with a two-point conversion run.
There was drama after Oakleaf freshman Carlos Witherup scored on a 12 yard run to bring the Knights to within 41-34 with four minutes remaining in the game. Drew Ammon dribbled an onside kick straight down the middle of the field. Fleming Island’s Dedric Walker stood his ground and caught the ball on a bounce as three Knights, including Ammon, converged on him. Jones was knocked to the ground as the three Knights tried to pry the ball loose. Jones handed the ball to the officials, who ruled that he had maintained possession. Oakleaf players drew four unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for protesting the call. The resulting markoff of 46 yards brought the ball to the Oakleaf six yard line. On the next play, Edward swept left behind his convoy of blockers and easily sped to the corner of the end zone for the game-clinching score. He ran the same play for a two-point conversion, providing for the final margin with 3:14 remaining.
“Our behavior was not representative of who we are,” said Oakleaf head coach Frank Garis, who thought that the Knights had recovered the ball. “We cannot let it snowball like that.”
Jones described the play this way: “I saw the ball, I stepped up, caught it and just hugged itl. Then I said to myself, ‘Gotta hold onto the ball.’”
Fleming Island dominated the line of scrimmage despite the fact that the Golden Eagles play two freshmen and two sophomores in their six-man defensive line rotation. Freshmen Demhir Jackson (who doubled as Edward’s blocking back on offense) and Khalil Matthews and sophomores Joey Couch and Braden Cunningham, along with senior Ricky Joseph, harassed Knights’ quarterback Drew Ammon all evening and bottled up Oakleaf’s potent running game. Ammon completed only 10 of 33 passes, often throwing balls away to avoid being sacked. Oakleaf averaged only 2.8 yards on 38 rushing attempts.
“I was proud of them,” Springs said of his young linemen. “Jackson has a high motor; he is always attacking.”
Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles ran for 277 yards, averaging 6.3 yards per rush. Edward finished with 83 yards on 14 carries. He was complemented by the shifty running of sophomore running back Cartavion Valentine, who ran 15 times for 98 yards. Springs likened Valentine to first-string running back Sam Singleton, who sat out the game due to concussion protocols.

“Cartavion is Sam 2.0,” said Springs. “Like Sam, he is speedy and can take it to the house, and he is a lot stronger than he looks.”
Musthafa Marshall chipped in with 56 yards and a touchdown. Springs said that the Golden Eagles’ game plan was to pound the Knights with the running game.
“We knew from film that we could run the ball on their defense, and we wanted to run it down their throats,” he said.
Fleming Island quarterback Cibastian Broughton did not throw often, but was very effective when he did. The freshman completed four of six throws for 115 yards, including two long touchdown passes to junior Brenden Cook. He also converted a third and 10 from midfield with a 12 yard scramble in the fourth quarter when the Golden Eagles were clinging to just a 33-27 lead. Edward scored later in the drive. Broughton’s style and unflappable demeanor remind Springs of former First Coast High quarterback Deondre Johnson, who started all four years for the Buccaneers and earned a scholarship to Florida State.
“You can tell that some guys have ‘it,’” Springs said. “He’s got ‘it,’ and he is the future.”
Fleming Island finishes the regular season with a 6-4 record, having finished third in District 3-7A. Their playoff chances lie with securing an at-large bid due to their power ranking.
“I am not worried about the playoffs,” said Springs, whose Golden Eagles won five of their last six games after a 1-3 start. “If we get that call, we will be ready. It just feels really good to see the guys come together and play like we knew they could play all year.”
Shevchook and Witherup, who led Oakleaf with 69 yards on 23 carries, each scored two rushing touchdowns for the Knights. Junior Taylor Bradshaw led all receivers with six catches for 106 yards, and Ammon was two for two on field goal attempts. Any chance Oakleaf had for an at-large berth in the Class 8A playoffs likely vanished with the loss, which leaves the Knights with a 4-6 record. Garis said that with four freshman starters on defense and only five seniors starting on offense, there were going to be growing pains this year.
“I am excited about what we have coming back next year,” said Garis. “We have got a lot we can build on.”


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