ST. JOHNS, Fla. – Before much of the crowd settled in at Bartram Trail — and with many stuck in traffic stretching toward the high school campus Saturday — the Bears had pushed their rivals from Creekside into a precarious situation.
Bartram struck for a pair of touchdowns during the opening 1:17, the first on a 90-yard kick return by A.J. Jones and the second coming on a 6-yard run by Jones following a fumble recovery. Brilliant efforts by the Bears' defense and special teams enabled them to overcome 352 yards passing from Knights quarterback Quinn Sieger on the way to a 28-14 victory in the St. Johns rivalry game.
Bartram (3-0) only had one sustained drive on offense for a touchdown, that coming at the end of the first half. But Ralph Hamilton blocked a punt early in the fourth and scooped it up for a score, giving the Bears 21 points directly scored or set up by defense and special teams.
"The defense has been getting after it in practice, and the special teams have been playing well," Bartram coach Darrell Sutherland said. "So that showed up. They're a very good football team, but we got those couple of plays in the beginning."
The role of special teams was prominent after each team only had one day of practice this week with the threat of Hurricane Dorian looming off the coast.
"We had some new kids on special teams who had only one day of practice because of injuries last week. I didn't get them ready," Creekside coach Sean McIntyre said. "I did not do a good job with the special teams this week, and that cost us dearly. We turned the ball over to them early and never recovered from it."
After Jones raced down the right side for a score on the opening kickoff, the Bears defense struck. Sieger was stripped-sacked on the Knights' first play by Brent Marti, the first of three sacks in the game for Marti. Evan Eilers recovered, and three plays later Jones again was in the end zone.
"All I saw was the ball there, and I jumped on it," Eilers said. "It's very, very big to get a good start. Get their minds on it that we're making big plays early."
It was a nightmare of three-and-out possessions combined with several near misses for Creekside (2-1). The team had five three-and-done series, but also had two crushing turnovers in the red zone.
The first came on a third-and-and-goal from the Bartram 3 midway through the first quarter. Sieger's pass was tipped at the line and intercepted by Segree Graham.
The second came midway through the second quarter. Shane Calhoun, who hauled in 11 passes for 156 yards, caught a pass over the middle, broke a couple of tackles, made a spin away from a defender and appeared headed into the end zone.
But Dominick Fields punched the ball out and through the end zone. Touchback. Bears ball.
That, along with a ground game held to four yards while being sabotaged by a series of bad snaps and misfired pitches, forced the Knights into a pass-first attack. Sieger rolled up the yardage, hitting Calhoun for a touchdown in the third. He also found reliable targets in Jack Goodrich (four catches, 133 yards) and Jalen Hines (6-63). But the only thing to show for it was a score by Hines in the waning minutes of the game.
Another shame for McIntyre was it negated a strong effort by his defense. Bartram totaled only 239 total yards as Jake Spillers recorded two tackles for loss while Luther McCoy had a sack and several pressures.
"I've watched as much Bartram Trail film as anyone outside the St. Augustine High School staff," McIntyre said, "and I never seen them score 14 points (on offense) in the game."
But the special teams and defense more than made up for that.
Bartram Trail 28, Creekside 14
Creekside, 0, 0, 7, 7—14
Bartram Trail, 14, 7, 0, 7—28
BT – AJ Jones 90 kick return (William Grieg kick)
BT – Jones 6 run (Grieg kick)
BT – Eric Weatherly 7 run (Greig kick)
C – Shane Calhoun 4 pass from Quinn Sieger (Andrew Daragjati kick)
BT – Ralph Hamilton 2 blocked punt return (Grieg kick)
C – Jalen Hines 1 run (Daragjati kick)
Category: C — BT
First downs:13 — 11
Rushes-yards: 23-43 — 6-67
Passing: 352 — 172
Comp-Att-Int: 21-43-1 — 17-25-0
Fumbles-lost: 3-2 — 0-0
Penalties-Yards: 6-50 — 7-50
RUSHING — C: Preston Strope 10-47, Himes 2-8, Sieger 7-(-10), Team 4-(-41). BT: Chad Dodson 10-34, Brody Davis 2-23, Jones 13-18, Malik Joseph 4-10, Weatherly 4-(-3), Team 3-(-15).
PASSING — C: Sieger 21-43-1-352. BT: Dodson 15-21-0-133, Weatherly 1-1-0-38, Davis 1-3-0-1.
RECEIVING — C: Calhoun 11-156, Jack Goodrich 4-133, Hines 6-63. BT: Jackson Mayer 4-82, Zach Rhodes 6-70, Jones 1-12, Brandon Chim 3-6, Preston Dodson 1-4, Weatherly 2-(-2).