Nease, St. Augustine set for district showdown

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After a commanding 63-28 win over Middleburg last week, Nease has continued to intensify its showdown against undefeated St. Augustine. The Panthers (4-3, 2-0 District 4-6A) and the Yellow Jackets (6-0, 2-0) face off at 7 p.m. Friday at Nease.

Standout running back Jareem Westcott continues to be a dominating force for the Panthers’ offense, rushing for 241 yards and four touchdowns against Middleburg.

“Jareem is having a great season and surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season last week,” Nease coach Tim Krause said. “He is a huge part of our offense because he has the ability to turn a 4-yard run into an explosive play.”

A week after going 11 of 12 for 222 yards and five touchdowns against White, quarterback Preston Staples was 3 of 7 against the Broncos, but he made his completions count, throwing for three touchdowns and 139 yards. Receiver Ashton Wood caught two of the TD passes for a combined 112 yards receiving, and tight end Zach Sheffer had a 27-yard TD reception.

“Our plan will always be to establish the running game and create opportunities off it in the passing game,” Krause said. “Preston did a great job executing when called upon. When we are running effectively downhill and can capitalize with play-action down the field, we are a dangerous offense.”

While the Panthers have been racking up the numbers offensively, St. Augustine’s defense has been clamping down, holding opponents to an average of 10.5 points per game. The Yellow Jackets have given up just seven points in their last three games, which included shutouts of Englewood and Ponte Vedra.

“We have a lot of respect for St. Augustine and the program they have built,” Krause said. “They challenge you to play a clean, complete game in all three phases in order to win. As a coach, it is a fun game to prepare for because it challenges you to put kids in the best possible situations to succeed.”

With the Panthers and Yellow Jackets tied atop the district standings, the winner on Friday will likely be in control of the conference.

“We know this is a big game for our program and our school community,” Krause said. “The challenge is to make sure we play under control and don’t allow the moment to be too big for us. As a team, we feel like we have continued to improve and build confidence in each other, and we are looking forward to Friday.”

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