Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sharks Whip Crusaders; Ponte Vedra Dominates on Defense, Sets Tone in Rugged 4-5A Playoff Race

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sharks Whip Crusaders; Ponte Vedra Dominates on Defense, Sets Tone in Rugged 4-5A Playoff Race

Article excerpt

Byline: Justin Barney

The district title may still run through Trinity Christian, but Ponte Vedra did all the running on Friday night.

The Sharks picked apart Bishop Kenny through the air, stuffed them on the ground, and broke it on defense in hammering the previously unbeaten Crusaders 38-22 in a game with significant playoff implications.

At the forefront of the jam-packed District 4-5A are state powers Trinity and Bolles, and no room for even one district defeat for either the Sharks or Crusaders before trying navigate that gauntlet. With a new playoff system in 2017, only the district champ is guaranteed a postseason berth, with wild-card spots determining the other qualifiers.

With a relentless defense, the Sharks (4-1, 2-0 in 4-5A) served notice that they are very much in the conversation.

They punished Kenny (4-1, 1-1) at the line of scrimmage, flipping the script on the Crusaders almost from the get-go. Kenny couldn't run (24 carries, 38 yards) and couldn't move the ball through the air until the game was so far out of reach that the Sharks were bringing in the backups in the third quarter.

"Our defense was dominant," said Ponte Vedra coach Matt Toblin. "Coach [Frank] Garis and Coach [Mannie] Wellington had a great game plan and our guys went out and executed."

Kenny, which had ridden a brute-force defense to wins in its first four games, couldn't do anything against Ponte Vedra. The running game was erased with a consistent surge from the Sharks line. That pressure was so intense that Kenny quarterback Tucker Talbott didn't manage his first completion for more than 8 yards until the final minute of the opening half.

By that time, it was a 31-7 rout and no doubt about where it was headed.

"They came out and executed, whipped our tail," said Kenny coach Bobby Raulerson. "Give Coach Toblin all the credit in the world. I thought we were prepared to play. We could not match their physicality for all four quarters. …

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