PALATKA, Fla. – It was a double Senior Night for the second-oldest rivalry in the state, with seniors from both St. Augustine and Palatka being introduced and honored prior to the game at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Then St. Augustine’s seniors, and underclassmen, went out Friday night and did what many of their recent predecessors have done — deliver a decisive victory over Palatka.
The Yellow Jackets had a 100-yard, three-touchdown performance from junior back Davonte Lyons, a nearly 300-yard night from sophomore quarterback Locklan Hewlett and, for good measure, a brilliant defensive effort from senior O’Ryon Brown in delivering a 42-10 defeat of the rival Panthers in the regular-season finale, the News4JAX Game of the Week.
“It’s great. The rivalry has been going on for so long, it’s nice to constantly beat them,” said Brown, who had two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. “Just knowing we’ve played for so long, there’s kind of a hatred there.”
While winning the rivalry is critical — and St. Augustine (7-3) now has done it nine consecutive times and in 22 of the past 24 seasons — there was postseason importance. The Jackets would be in good shape for a home-field opener if they won, while a victory by Palatka (7-3), would pretty much clinch a postseason berth.
St. Augustine coach Brian Braddock, while critical of his team’s penalties, was glad to see his team tested right before the postseason.
“The blessing tonight, us having some difficulties and playing a super-improved Palatka team, credit to them, was that it was hard,” Braddock said. “We had to earn what we got. It wasn’t as easy as some of the situations we’ve been in this season. Our kids had some difficulties, and I think it was good for them to experience it because it’s not going to be easy in the playoffs.”
While the Jackets will know Sunday who they have to prep for, next week is in limbo for the Panthers. They entered the weekend seventh in Region 2-2S. The four district winners from each region make the postseason, along with the next four highest-ranked teams in the region. As District 8-2S champion Crescent City is out of the top eight in the region power rankings, Palatka has to hold its top seven spot or risk missing the postseason.
Yulee, which routed Menendez 35-7, was the next team in the power rankings, 1.223 behind the Panthers. But Palatka may have caught some good fortune as Tocoi Creek, which was ahead of the Panthers despite losing to Palatka earlier in the season, was pummeled by one-win Nease.
Whether his team plays next week or not, Panthers coach Patrick Turner was happy with his team’s turnaround season.
“Honestly, in or out, I’m content for this year,” Turner said. “It was a heck of a run. (We went) 7-3, the first time in 20 years it’s been done. The goal was to go .500. We exceeded that. But to be a good football team, you have to win consistently against good football programs, and we got a little taste of that tonight.”
The first taste came early as, on St. Augustine’s third play from scrimmage, Hewlett connected with Trenton Jones for a 71-yard scoring pass and a 7-0 lead. While Palatka would tie the game, the Jackets never trailed.
It was the start of big nights for Hewlett, who had 297 yards passing and two touchdowns, and Jones, who hauled in seven passes for 163 yards.
“It definitely gave us momentum,” Hewlett said. “Trent has got great speed, and is a great receiver, and. I trust him. So when the O-line gives us time, we’ve got to deliver. I’m in a perfect situation with all the talent around me and a great coaching staff. It’s a perfect team.”
But, as Braddock mentioned, the Panthers were difficult for some time. They were able to even the score following an interception by Tyshawn Castor, which set up a five-play scoring drive capped by Jamarrie McKinnon’s six-yard keeper. But St. Augustine answered with a 10-play scoring drive, aided by 35 yards in penalties against Palatka, which Lyons finished off with the first of his three scores.
The turning point as Turner saw it came after Joseph Alvarez-Aguilar kicked a 40-yard field goal to narrow the gap to 14-10 with just less than three minutes left in the half. The Jackets, who now hold an all-time edge of 58-43-3 in the series, put together a nine-play drive, again assisted by Panthers penalties, which saw Lyons, who rushed for 135 yards, cap with his second score.
“They drove the field down and we gave them three penalties there,” Turner said. “They score right before the half. That one, right before the half, stung.”
Earlier squandered opportunities came back to haunt Palatka. The Panthers converted a 4th-and-9 on the opening drive, only to fail on a fourth-and-1 later, when St. Augustine’s Mike Wright stopped a rushing attempt for a two-yard loss. The field goal was a boost but it came after a 12-play drive, and a later 24-yard attempt by Alvarez-Aguilar was blocked with the chance to pull closer from 28-10.
Even though St. Augustine came up empty on a 12-play drive to start the second half, the Jackets were back in the end zone on their next drive, which took less than two minutes and was capped by Lyons’ 14-yard touchdown run.
From that point on, the crowd began to dwindle and the Jackets began to pull away, with the weekend to wait and see if their team will take the field again this season.
St. Augustine 42, Palatka 10
St. Augustine, 7, 14, 7, 14 — 42
Palatka, 7, 3, 0, 0— 10
SA – Trenton Jones 71 pass from Locklan Hewlett (Adam Talha kick)
P – Jamarrie McKinnon 6 run (Joseph Alvarez-Aguilar kick)
SA – Devonte Lyons 2 run (Talha kick)
P – Alvarez-Aguilar 40 FG
SA – Lyons 4 run (Talha kick)
SA – Lyons 14 run (Talha kick)
SA – Darrell Jenkins 40 pass from Hewlett (Talha kick)
SA – Sean Harvey 1 run (Talha kick)
Category: SA — P
First downs: 25 9
Rushes-yards: 38-203 — 31-80
Passing: 297 — 169
Comp-Att-Int: 17-29-1 — 14-25-1
Fumbles-lost: 2-0 — 0-0
Penalties-Yards: 10-66 —14-107
RUSHING — SA: Lyons 24-135, Sean Harvey 9-53, Jones 3-29, Hewlett 2-(-14). P: McKinnon 10-28, Saiquan Williams 12-27, Tommy Offord 7-25, Albert Leonard 1-0, Tyran Bush 1-0.
PASSING — SA: Hewlett 17-29-1-297. P: McKinnon 12-22-0-89, S. Williams 1-1-0-69, Offord 1-2-1-11.
RECEIVING — SA: Jones 7-163, D. Jenkins 2-50, Myles Simmons 3-33, Ivyn Collins 2-27, Carl Jenkins 2-19, Marsaun Harris 1-5. P: Bush 3-87, Offord 3-42, Trent Williams 2-30, S. Williams 4-16, Tay Valentine 2-(-6).