Sharks finish strong in win over Palatka

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Ponte Vedra scored 15 unanswered fourth quarter points to overcome a 26-24 deficit in last Friday night’s win over the visiting Panthers from Palatka.

The Sharks’ multifaceted offense — with Jack Murrah and Cobi Myers sharing time under center and Campbell Parker and Mark Calvin alternating at running back — proved more than the visitors could handle, as Ponte Vedra beat Palatka 39-26.

In addition, the lightning fast Panthers had difficultly keeping their offense on the field. Ponte Vedra converted two onside kickoffs (a favored strategy of coach Matt Toblin), recovered two fumbles and blocked two extra points and a punt. The result was complete domination of time of possession by the Sharks.

Palatka’s four quick strike touchdowns covered a total of 278 yards but consumed less than six minutes on the clock. On the other hand, Ponte Vedra scored five touchdowns and a field goal while racking up 247 yards on 48 rushes to take big chunks of time off the clock.  

Murrah guided the Sharks to their opening touchdown when he tossed a perfect 37-yard scoring strike to Kyle Barker. Barker, who had beaten his man by three steps, made a brilliant catch on the play. After Palatka tied matters at 7-7, Myers found Parker uncovered in the left flat for a 3-yard touchdown completing a 16-play drive.

The Sharks got the ball right back when Raj Patel recovered his own kickoff. This time it was Murrah’s turn to run the offense and he engineered a 7-play drive that ended with Parker running in from 10 yards out. The Sharks led 21-7 with five minutes left in the half.

A second consecutive, successful onside kickoff was recovered by Connor McDonough, but the Sharks fumbled the ball back to the Panthers on the next play. After the teams traded three-and-out punts, the visitors mounted a six-play scoring drive in the final minute of the half to draw within seven at 21-14.

Ryan Chase returned the second half kickoff 41 yards, but Ponte Vedra had to settle for Patel’s 27-yard field goal. Palatka took just three plays to score again thanks to runs of 25 and 40 yards. Cole McCormick blocked the PAT, and the Panthers trailed 24-20.

The Sharks lost the football on a fumble at the Palatka 10-yard line, and the Panthers took advantage of the mishap to score in two plays — a pass of 20 yards and a run of 70 yards. Peter Merlini blocked the PAT, so Palatka led 26-24 for the first time in the game. It was also the first time the Sharks trailed this season.

Myers and Parker came on and singlehandedly set up the next Ponte Vedra touchdown. First, Myers lobbed a screen pass to Parker that was good for 27 yards. Then, he faked the screen and ran for 26 more. Parker bulled over from a yard out. Murrah took over for the two-point conversion and ran it in to put the Sharks back on top, 32-26, with 10 minutes left.

Ponte Vedra iced the game on the next series when Christian Desanto blocked Palatka’s punt, and Myers turned it into the game’s final touchdown.

Statistically, Merlini, with four tackles, and McCormick, with three, led the Ponte Vedra defense. Parker rushed 19 times for 110 yards, Calvin added 68 yards on 18 carries and Myers rushed eight times for 69 yards. Parker was the leading receiver for the Sharks with three catches for 42 yards. Nick Pirris had three for 18 and Barker had two for 48. Murrah completed 8 of 11 passes for 112 yards and one touchdown, and Myers was 5 of 9 for 43 yards and one touchdown.

Ponte Vedra (2-0) has a short trip down U.S. 1 to take on St. Augustine (1-1) this Friday night.

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