Game of the Week: Creekside stays hot, downs rival Nease

Creekside knocked off Nease 37-27 in the Football Friday Game of the Week. (Cole Pepper, News4Jax)

PONTE VEDRA, Fla. – Creekside coach Sean McIntyre was preaching offensive efficiency this week. Score when opportunities are presented.

There were plenty of opportunities Friday night, and the result was an offensive revival for the Knights.

McIntyre was elated with his offense in the red zone and outside the red zone, while the Creekside defense played its role and forced three second-half turnovers. That was enough for the Knights to drive past host Nease 37-27 in the News4Jax Game of the Week.

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While McIntyre was happy with the defense’s performance in the opening-week victory at Ribault, he felt his team could have put up more than 16 points.

This week: Five touchdowns and a 40-yard field goal by Cooper Maurer.

“We did not finish many drives last week,” McIntyre said. “We had multiple times in the red zone when we had zero points. I cannot remember a time (against Nease) that we had the ball inside the 20 and did not score. That was a big point of emphasis for the offense this week, and they came out and executed. I’m really proud of them.”

Creekside (2-0) made three red zone trips and scored a touchdown on all three. But the Knights also flashed the big play as well. Four of quarterback Jacob Dennie’s 18 pass attempts went for 30 yards or more, and he added three touchdown passes, including two to tight end Paul Wood.

Running back Preston Strope was a problem for the Panthers as well, rushing 23 times for 162 yards and a pair of scores. With Nease leading 7-0, Strope broke off a 47-yard scoring run, shrugging off a defender for 10 of those yards, to even the score.

He struck again in the second quarter, barreling through a defender at the end of a 15-yard run to give the Knights a 13-7 advantage, a lead they would not surrender.

McIntyre said one point emphasized week in and week out is creating turnovers, and Creekside forced three in the second half. The first happened on the first play after the break, when linebacker Ian Mooney stripped and recovered the ball at the Panthers 24.

“My teammates made him come back in to me, and I stripped it and we had the ball,” Mooney said. “It gave us momentum in the second half.”

That it did. Mooney’s fumble recovery led to a 12-yard Dennie-to-Wood score and a 20-7 lead.

“We harp on turnovers,” McIntyre said. “We have a turnover belt. We track turnovers in practice. They’ve been a huge key in the past and a huge key in games we’ve lost. We talk about ball disruption all the time.”

Nease (1-1), coming off a big win that ended an 11-game losing streak to rival Ponte Vedra, did not go easily. Marcus Stokes, who had 343 passing yards, hit Dom Henry on a 20-yard pass play on the Panthers’ next drive to pull within six points.

While Nease rolled up the passing yards, it was the miscues that hurt most. In addition to the three turnovers, there were ill-timed penalties that scrapped drives and drops in the passing game.

“We knew we would have to throw the ball because of how good their front is. I knew we would be able to do that. But to win that game, we would need 400-plus (passing yards),” Panthers coach Collin Drafts said with a chuckle, “because we just couldn’t get the run game going.”

The front was stout, as Drafts repeated, with Creekside end Vincent Approbato counting a sack and forced fumble among his three tackles for loss. As a team, the Knights had three sacks as part of seven tackles for loss, with those seven stops behind the line of scrimmage taking away 42 of Nease’s yards.

The Panthers remained in the game, however. But less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, the mistakes caught up with Nease. Jake Thorpe forced a fumble at the Panthers 13 that Christian Yousefzadeh recovered. Just a couple of plays later, Yousefzadeh was in the end zone courtesy of Dennie’s third scoring pass, making for the third successful red zone trip and a 37-14 lead.

Nease did tack on two touchdowns, including one with no time left. But fitting for the game, the Panthers also fumbled at the end of a big play that pushed them deep into Knights territory.

For Nease, the afterglow of ending their losing streak against Ponte Vedra is gone.

“Credit to them, they outplayed us,” Drafts said. “Previous years, game like this, I might try to spin it. Positivity. A moral victory. We’re past that. We didn’t have a good enough week of practice, I don’t think. As much as we wanted to avoid it, coming off that big win last week, man, I don’t know if it got out of our heads in time.”

Creekside, on the other hand, still gets to savor its 2-0 start.

“It feels good,” Mooney said. “We’ve worked hard as a team and we’re excited for the year.”

Creekside 37, Nease 27

Creekside: 7, 6, 10, 14 — 37

Nease: 7, 0, 7, 13 — 27

N – Grant Stevens 5 pass from Marcus Stokes (Canaan Kimball kick)

C – Preston Strope 47 run (Cooper Maurer kick)

C – Strope 15 run (kick failed)

C – Paul Wood 12 pass from Jacob Dennie (Maurer kick)

N – Dom Henry 20 pass from Stokes (Kimball kick)

C – Maurer 40 FG

C – Wood 31 pass from Dennie (Maurer kick)

C – Christian Yousefzadeh 9 pass from Dennie (Maurer kick)

N – Donavan Wilson 72 pass from Stokes (Kimball kick)

N – Wilson 18 pass from Stokes (No PAT attempted)

  • Category: C — N
  • First downs: 19 — 19
  • Rushes-yards: 33-143 — 26-18
  • Passing: 205 — 343
  • Comp-Att-Int: 12-18-0 — 22-38-0
  • Fumbles-lost: 2-1 — 4-3
  • Penalties-Yards: 6-66 — 6-50

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING — C: Strope 23-162, Team 3-(-3), Dennie 7-(-16). N: Sam Milton 9-30, Henry 1-7, Da’von Patterson 3-5, Stokes 13-(-14).

PASSING — C: Dennie 12-18-0-205. N: Stokes 22-38-0-343.

RECEIVING — C: Maxwell Robinson 6-106, Wood 3-49, Brendan McMillan 2-41, Yousefzadeh 1-9. N: Wilson 5-153, Henry 8-96, Stevens 6-58, Patterson 3-36.