Nease put on quite a performance in front of a packed house against undefeated St. Augustine last Friday night, but fell short of pulling off the upset.
The Yellow Jackets (7-0, 3-0) held off the Panthers for a 35-23 victory and secured the District 4-6A title, although Nease didn’t make it easy. The Panthers trailed 21-10 at halftime, but their defense held St. Augustine to several three-and-outs, and Nease’s Trey Ragin intercepted Austin Reed’s pass on first-and-goal during St. Augustine’s opening drive of the second half.
“I didn’t get into this for moral victories,” Nease coach Tim Krause said. “We’re always working to try to win games. While I’m really, really proud of their effort, the kids played incredibly hard and fought the entire game, I’m disappointed in the way it turned out.”
Nease (4-4, 2-1) staged a rally in the second half behind the legs of standout running back Jareem Westcott. St. Augustine, which had been holding opponents to an average of 10.5 points per game, struggled to contain Westcott, who rushed for 225 yards on 39 carries and two touchdowns. He also nearly set up another scoring drive in the fourth quarter, bulldozing his way and dragging defenders with him to St. Augustine’s 15-yard line, but the play was overturned on a holding penalty.
“In any game, there’s a handful of situations you want back, and a handful of situations that, if they went one way or another, things would have turned out different and that was obviously one of them,” Krause said. “We had a lot of momentum and had the call go against us. But that’s the game, that’s the way it works.”
Quarterback Preston Staples went 11 of 18 passing for 116 yards and rushed for a touchdown too. He also threw two interceptions, however, and was sacked on fourth-and-goal on Nease’s final possession of the game.
The disappointment of not being able to pull off the upset showed in the players’ faces as they left the field, but Krause said he was impressed with the toughness his team displayed.
“I think we take away from this that we’re a really competitive football team, and that I think our kids can play with anybody,” Krause said. “… I’m really proud to be their coach. I thought they played as hard as they could, and I know they fought and I wish we could have done more for them.”
The Panthers, who still have a slim chance to make the playoffs, next face Englewood at home at 7 p.m. Friday, before closing out the regular season at Bartram Trail on Nov. 3.