Game of the week: Bunkosky shines as Ponte Vedra thumps Fletcher

Sharks QB accounts for 3 TDs in 28-7 rout of district champion Senators

Ponte Vedra Sharks getting the win over Fletchers Senators; 28-7 for Week's 10, "Game of the Week".

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Ponte Vedra was done.

The Sharks had lost three in a row, hadn’t won at home all season and their postseason hopes were fading to the faintest glimmer.

That’s what quarterback Nate Bunkosky said he was hearing about his team. After Friday night, he expects to hear a lot less of that.

Host Ponte Vedra picked off Fletcher’s first two pass attempts of the game and converted them into touchdowns. With four short-field drives, the Sharks jumped on the District 3-7A champion Senators early en route to a 28-7 Senior Night victory in the News4Jax Game of the Week.

Heading into the contest, Ponte Vedra (4-5, 2-3) had lost three consecutive games, including a two-point loss to Bartram Trail, and was 0-4 at home. The Sharks’ run of not having a losing season since 2014 was in jeopardy.

“It’s been tough,” said Bunkosky, who threw for a touchdown and ran for two more. “But as long as you can believe, you can win. Anything can happen.

“I don’t think anybody thought we would win this game. District champs. I think everyone said, ‘Ponte Vedra’s done, done with the season. Their heads are down. They’re not going to win this game.’ We shut them up for sure. It’s a great feeling.”

The feeling is different for Fletcher (5-4, 3-1), which was ninth in the News4Jax Super 10. While the Senators have wrapped up the district and the playoff spot that comes with it, this was a brick wall in what had been a steady progression this season.

Fletcher lost its first three games this season — all non-district — by a combined 13 points. After that, things picked up nicely for the Senators, who won four in a row by a total of 11 points before claiming the district title last week with a 30-point beating of First Coast.

Prior to Friday night, the most points Fletcher had surrendered in a game this season was 19.

“The first few games (of the winning streak), they knew they were fighting for their district lives,” Senators coach Ciatrick Fason said. “The crazy thing was they had a great week of practice. They didn’t give us that same energy. I don’t know if it was that first interception, but this wasn’t us tonight. The same fight wasn’t there.”

The turnovers were a key, said Bunkosky, who passed for 136 yards and ran for 65 more. He was proud that the Sharks had a clean slate with no turnovers. The same, as Fason mentioned, could not be said of Fletcher.

Ponte Vedra had to travel 46, 14, 51 and 49 yards on its scoring drives. The first two scoring possessions, both in the opening quarter, were set up courtesy of interceptions by Trooper Price and Mason Flores, leading to a Bunkosky touchdown pass and a 6-yard reverse for a score by Ryan Smith.

The third scoring drive came in the second quarter following a three-and-out by the Senators and the fourth after recovering an onside kick in the fourth quarter.

Fletcher mustered only 88 total yards in the first half and had trouble moving the ball until midway through the fourth quarter. One bright spot was receiver Trey Rose, who hauled in four passes for 96 yards, including a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to cap an 11-play, 97-yard drive.

Kingston Kamal had two tackles for loss and half a sack for the Sharks, while United States Naval Academy commit Luke Pirris added 1.5 tackles for loss.

“We played a great game, I thought,” said Pirris, who also caught the first touchdown of the game, a 17-yard pass. “We knew, with the bye week, we were going to be prepared for them. All of us have been working hard. I knew it was coming. We deserved it.”

The loss isn’t too damaging to Fletcher, which closes the regular season with Mandarin next week. The Senators were lined up for a fourth seed in the region playoffs, being the fourth-ranked district winner in Region I in terms of RPI, and they can be seeded no lower than that.

Ponte Vedra’s hopes still are faint but viable. Taking out the region’s four projected district winners, the Sharks entered Friday eighth in the region among wild card hopefuls. After the region’s four district champs, only the top four remaining in terms of RPI will receive at-large spots in the playoffs.

But an opportunity presents itself in next week’s season finale, with a game against Class 8A power Creekside.

“You’ve got to be a high-level math professor to figure that out, and I’m not that guy,” Ponte Vedra coach Steve Price said. “Guys who know that, (say) there’s a slim, slim, slim chance. But we’re not worried about that. We’re worried about one game at a time.”

As for that finale, Bunkosky will welcome any added motivation. Not, as Price alluded, that the team needs any.

“I love our kids. There’s no quit in them,” Price said. “They’re phenomenal. We’re not done. We’ve got another game next Friday. We’re excited about it, and we’ll see what we can do.”

Ponte Vedra 28, Fletcher 7

Fletcher, 0, 0, 0, 7 —7

Ponte Vedra, 14, 7, 0, 7 — 28

PV – Luke Pirris 17 pass from Nate Bunkosky (Davis Ashcroft kick)

PV – Ryan Smith 6 run (Ashcroft kick)

PV – Bunkosky 28 run (Ashcroft kick)

F – Trey Rose 16 pass from Marcellis Tate (Beau Keller kick)

PV – Bunkosky 3 run (Ashcroft kick)

Category: F — PV

First downs: 13  — 12

Rushes-yards: 33-110 — 35-144

Passing: 148 — 136

Comp-Att-Int: 12-21-2  —  8-14-0

Fumbles-lost: 0-0  — 0-0

Penalties-Yards: 6-37 —  5-50

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING — F: Jabarri Williams 21-67, Tate 9-29, Turner Colbert 3-14. PV: Bunkosky 11-65, Mikey Stephens 4-37, Nolan Parlette 14-32, Smith 1-6, Corey Bloss 1-3, Bobby Kegley 3-2, Team 1-(-1).

PASSING — F: Tate 11-20-2-139, Keely Watson 1-1-0-9. PV: Bunkosky 8-14-0-136.

RECEIVING — F: Rose 4-96, Ja’Sean Merrick 2-33, Anthony Vaglienti 2-14, Zion Edwards 1-3, Williams 1-2, Aiden Heilmann 1-1, Colbert 1-(-1). PV: Smith 2-42, Wyatt Rogers 1-35, Pirris 2-32, Griffin Owen 3-27.