ST. JOHNS, Fla. – Creekside was 10 yards away from ending the six-year reign of misery imposed by neighborhood rival Bartram Trail.
Instead, an interception, a big pass play and three minutes later, there was Bartram Trail kicker Liam Padron being mobbed by his teammates on the Bears Stadium field as he extended the Knights misery to a seventh season. Padron’s 27-yard field goal with no time left lifted the Bears to a 16-13 victory Friday night.
This one had all the drama worthy of the News4Jax Game of the Week. The District 1-8A lead was at stake. There was strong defense but several big plays and a frenetic final five minutes as the rivals slugged it out. And it did not lack for drama as the usually surefire sophomore Padron shrugged off a tough start — two 40-yard-plus misses and a blocked extra point — to seal his rival’s fate.
“For a young guy, he has a good deal of maturity,” Bears coach Darrell Sutherland said. “I know how hard he works. You see it every day, him perfecting his craft and getting better and better. He’s tireless as far as his work. To see him come through at the end, I’m just really happy for him.”
The result is continued mastery by Bartram Trail (6-1, 2-0), ranked third in the News4Jax Super 10, which now has won 13 of 14 in the series that features St. Johns County schools that sit less than six miles apart.
“I just had to remind myself what I do best,” said Padron, who has hit 11 of 17 field goals this season with a long of 48. “Definitely a good rivalry, and for me to keep it here, (it) feels good.”
In terms of feelings, Creekside (6-2, 2-1) is at the opposite end of the spectrum. The Knights, ranked eighth in the Super 10, started the season with a six-game winning streak but lost their past two, this one with the team facing a second-and-goal at the 13 with three-plus minutes remaining. A whirlwind three minutes and Creekside was dealt a painful loss.
Knights coach Sean McIntyre expects his team to show the resiliency it has shown all season.
“We have tough kids,” McIntyre said. “They were tough when we were winning close ones, and I guarantee they’ll be tough when we lose close games. They’re awesome kids, and they’re going to want to come back to work and make this right.”
Creekside started sharply. A 72-yard pass play from Jacob Dennie to Brendan McMillan and a 49-yard rumble from Preston Strope put points on the board. While the Bears had five first-half possessions inside the Knights 25, they came up empty on four courtesy of a tipped interception, a fumble and misses of 40 and 43 from Padron.
A three-yard touchdown run from Eric Weatherly was the only score Bartram Trail had to show for those ventures inside the 25.
That changed with the second play of the second half, which featured the last points until Padron’s game-winning kick. Riley Trujillo, who finished with 235 passing yards, connected over the middle with Jack Creman, who shrugged through a tackle, broke free and was alone behind the defense. Seventy-one yards later, Creman was in the end zone and, after Padron’s PAT was blocked, the game was tied at 13.
Neither team dented the other’s defense for most of the second half. But with five minutes left in the game, Creekside gambled and converted a fourth-and-6, with Dennie finding Paul Wood for a 36-yard pass play that put the ball at the Bears 10.
After a penalty and short run, the ball sat at the 13. Dennie, who threw for 234 yards, rolled right and fired into the end zone. Sharif Denson said he saw the ball was overthrown and readied for it.
It settled into Denson’s arms at the goal line for an interception. He returned it out of the end zone and raced to the 25-yard line.
“I didn’t see it because I was praying,” joked Sutherland. “But (Denson) is a play-maker. I love our defense, the way those guys rally around each other and have each others’ backs. They’re always going to keep us in the game.”
Now the onus was on the Bears’ offense. Following the touchdown pass to start the half, they had gone three-and-out three times and had only one other first down. But on third-and-7, Trujillo hit Weatherly for a 48-yard pass play to get the ball to the Knights 24.
“That was a great throw and a great catch,” Sutherland said. “Their defense, credit to them, they did a great job and made some plays in keeping us in check. Just, when our guys stepped up, it was great.”
The next five plays were A.J. Megas runs, as Bartram Trail crept forward and drained time. One final timeout and out trotted Padron.
He said the snap and hold were great. Time ticked to 0:00 as the ball soared through the uprights.
Game over. Bartram Trail still held the upper hand. For Creekside, it’s another year of rivalry misery.
Bartram Trail 16, Creekside 13
Creekside, 7, 6, 0, 0 —13
Bartram Trail, 0, 7, 6, 3 — 16
C – Brendan McMillan 72-yard pass from Jacob Dennie (Cooper Maurer kick)
BT – Eric Weatherly 3 run (Liam Padron kick)
C – Preston Strope 49 run (kick blocked)
BT – Jack Creman 71 pass from Riley Trujillo (kick blocked)
BT – Padron 27 FG
Category: C — BT
First downs: 15 — 14
Rushes-yards: 28-135 — 31-123
Passing: 234 — 235
Comp-Att-Int: 14-22-1 — 15-26-1
Fumbles-lost: 1-1 — 1-1
Penalties-Yards: 6-35 — 4-41
RUSHING — C: Strope 20-125, Dennie 7-15, Team 1-(-5). BT: A.J. Megas 14-77, Trujillo 8-24, Lathon Biddle 1-12, Weatherly 7-12, Allan Smith 1-(-2).
PASSING — C: Dennie 14-22-1-234. BT: Riley Trujillo 15-24-1-235, Cade Duncan 0-1-0-0, Weatherly 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — C: McMillan 9-170, Wood 1-36, Maxwell Robinson 3-14, Ashton Reynolds 1-14. BT: Creman 3-91, Weatherly 5-68, John Pirrung 3-40, Taylor Rhodes 1-19, Eli Sutherland 2-10, Jayden Fanara 1-7.