There were two storms that occurred at Shark Field last Friday night, as Port St. Joe welcomed the Marianna Bulldogs for the official start of the 2021 football season.
The first storm occurred primarily in the persons of Shark seniors Sharks Colin Amison and D.J. Oliver, numbers 9 and 4, respectively.
With surgical efficiency, Amison completed 13-of-19 passes in the first half for 203 yards and two scores, while Oliver ran for 85 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries, plus a 2-point conversion to open up a 28-point halftime lead on their way to a 36-0 thrashing of the Bulldogs.
The talented running back also recovered two Marianna fumbles in the first quarter from his linebacker position, and would end the game with 170 yards on 11 carries, including three scores (one receiving) and two two-point conversions.
The second storm came from Mother Nature, as the skies opened up just before the third quarter kickoff, bringing sheets of rain and sending fans scurrying for cover.
“Right right before halftime we were dying,” said an exuberant Coach Tanner Jones. “We just don’t have the numbers (and have) a lot of guys going both ways.”
“But I was very proud of our guys. We rotated three running backs in (and junior) P.J. Jones did a heck of a job making stuff happen,” gaining 34 yards on seven carries, including one play in which he spun away from five would-be tacklers.
Jones had to be helped off the field in the third quarter after being shaken up twice while playing defense.
“Aiden was Aiden, just a constant pounder,” said Coach Jones of senior running back Aiden Gainer, who gained 67 yards on seven carries.
“And getting blocks. He does everything right.” said the coach.
“D.J. is a man among boys at times. We had great blocking tonight (and) we were able to get out on the edge. They were trying to pinch the middle, so we (made adjustments),” Jones said.
The coach also spoke highly of his special team play, especially with first-year player Christian Peacock kicking extra points and kickoffs.
It took a while for either storm to emerge. As Port St. Joe came onto the field, P.A. announcer Bobby Nobles greeted them with his signature “Heeeeeeere come the Sharks!”
Announcing Shark football games has been “all in the family” for decades as Nobles, now in his seventh year in the booth was preceded first by his father, Teedy Nobles, who had the microphone for 30 seasons ,and now does spotting duties. The younger Nobles’ grandfather, Bill Fleming, announced for 35 years.
Highlighted by Amison’s precision passes, the Sharks methodically marched down the field on a 65-yard drive to take the lead with 7:45 in the first quarter. Amison completed passes of 14 yards to junior Lajuan Zaccaro, 15 to senior Nick Jefferson, 6 to Oliver, and 1 to Gainer before hitting Oliver for the final 24-yarder in the right corner of the end zone.
The Sharks decided to go for 2-points after a Marianna offside penalty, and the “jumbo package” led Oliver to paydirt. Sharks led 8-0.
The D.J. Oliver highlight reel continued with his fumble recovery at the Marianna 44 yard line.
Taking only 2:05 off the clock, the Sharks needed only five plays to score again. P.J. Jones ran for 25 yards on the drive, Gainer gained 11, and Oliver did the honors by speeding around the right corner for the final eight yards and the score.
Peacock kicked the extra point and the Shark lead increased to 15-0 at the 4:04 mark.
A flurry of activity preceded the final Port St. Joe score of the quarter. Following a Marianna punt, the Bulldogs recovered a Shark fumble on the next play but coughed it up at the home 28-yard line with who else but Oliver recovering the ball.
The Shark “storm” struck on the first play of the second quarter, as senior receiver Jefferson caught a short Amison pass on a screen right, squirted out of several would-be tacklers, reversed field and sprinted toward the Bulldog end zone for a 71-yard burst to the Marianna 1-yard line.
The jumbo package led Oliver once again to the promised land, and after a Peacock kick, the Shark lead increased to 22-0 after only 41 seconds into the second quarter.
There would be only one more score before the half. After a Bulldog punt, the Sharks went on a 12-play drive that culminated with a 19-yard pass from Amison to a leaping Zaccaro who made an exceptional athletic grab of the ball with only three seconds left on the clock, outjumping the Marianna defender in the process.
Although the extra point was muffed on a bad snap, Port St. Joe would go into the locker room with a commanding 28-0 lead.
As both bands performed at halftime, fans on both sides began checking their phones after Nobles announced potential bad weather was on the way.
Sheets of rain poured across the field on both teams as the second half began. This was to be a much quieter half, as there would be only one more score for either team. And it would be courtesy of Oliver once again.
As the rain came down, Oliver took the ball on his own 47, and 53 yards later would score Port St. Joe’s final touchdown of the evening. With the rain starting to slacken, he ran the ball in for the two-point conversion, increasing the Shark lead to 36-0 with 7:50 remaining in the third quarter.
Marianna’s next possession brought hope to their sideline and fans, marching down the field on a 4:41 minute drive, but their hopes were dashed when Jefferson recovered a Bulldog fumble at the Shark 17-yard line after a completed pass.
In the final quarter, Port St. Joe’s offense held the ball until 3:58 remained on the clock. Marianna was to make two first downs before the clock ran out.
“As you can see, I’m just very happy (and) proud of our guys,” said Jones of his team. “I told them at the end, you drive me crazy, but tonight I love y’all… I’m going scalloping (Saturday).”