Port St. Joe exploded for 28 second-half points en route to a 48-28 win over the Tornadoes of Bay High on “senior night” at Shark Stadium last Friday.
The win boosted the Tiger Sharks’ season record to 5-1. Bay fell to 2-5.
The Tiger Sharks overcame two fumbles on their first two series before taking a 14-0 lead as the first quarter ended.
Once again, junior running back D.J. Oliver provided the spark toward both scores.
“D.J.’s been steady for us all year,” said Coach Tanner Jones. Oliver would finish the night with 259 rushing yards, 92 receiving yards, and two touchdowns, his third consecutive game with more than 200 yards rushing.
Oliver also led the Sharks on defense with a total of 14 tackles from his linebacker position.
After a missed field goal attempt by Bay, St. Joe took possession on its own 20-yard line. Seven plays later, Oliver took a direct snap from the wildcat position and burst through the middle virtually untouched on his way to a 62-yard scoring jaunt with 3:57 remaining in the initial frame.
Christian Peacock’s kick gave the Sharks a 7-0 lead, one they would not relinquish.
Following a Bay punt, senior quarterback Colin Amison and Oliver connected on a short out to the left flat, and Oliver would not be caught until 49-yards later at the Tornado 12-yard line.
LaJuan Zaccaro’s acrobatic grab in the end zone on the next play doubled the Sharks’ score. Fighting with a Bay defender for the pass, Zaccaro secured the ball after falling to his back and having it bounce off his arm into the air before snatching it to complete the Top-10 worthy play.
Peacock’s kick gave St. Joe a 14-0 lead just prior to the end of the first quarter.
Aided by a pass interference penalty and running back Mike Johnson’s 57 yards on the drive, Bay got on the board with a quarterback sneak from one yard out by Cason Forehand to reduce the deficit to 14-7 at the 9:11 mark of the second quarter.
The Tiger Sharks were to increase their lead in methodical fashion on an eight-play, 81-yard drive lasting for three minutes, with Zaccaro completing the drive on a 7-yard run. Despite the failed extra point try, St. Joe held a 20-7 advantage.
Trying an onside kick after the score, the ball failed to travel the required 10 yards, and aided by a St. Joe illegal blocking penalty, Bay had the ball on the Shark 37-yard line, but the inspired defense once again forced a Tornado punt after only three plays.
Success eluded the Sharks on this drive, and Bay regained possession on the St. Joe 18-yard line after an incomplete pass on a fourth down play.
Needing only three plays, Bay closed the gap to 20-15 after Johnson’s touchdown and 2-point conversion by Javonta Davis with less than two minutes before halftime.
Johnson, who had gained 218 yards and three touchdowns just two weeks ago in Bay’s win over North Bay Haven, ground out 134 yards on 17 carries against the Sharks.
Oliver went to the locker room already having an impressive night, gaining 187 yards on 10 carries along with 83 yards receiving.
His highlight reel continued in the third quarter when he followed his blockers up the heart of the Bay defense on St. Joe’s first play of the quarter and rambled 66 yards for another Shark touchdown.
P.J. Jones completed the 2-point try to give St. Joe a 28-15 lead with 8:55 remaining in the third quarter.
The Amison-to-Zaccaro connection gave St. Joe another score in the quarter, this time from 41-yards out. Zaccaro used his basketball skills to outleap two Tornado defenders at the 13-yard line before easily finding paydirt.
“LaJuan had two unbelievable catches,” the first involved “great concentration on the fade,” said Jones, and on the second touchdown, “if that ball’s two inches higher or lower, we don’t catch it. Colin did a good job giving him a chance” to make the catch.
For the game, Amison completed 12 of 21 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns.
Peacock’s kick increased the Shark lead to 35-15, with 3:29 to go in the third quarter.
On the next Shark possession, Jones carried much of the load on this scoring drive. Jones ran for 18, then caught a screen pass from Amison for another 17-yards before finishing the final eight-yards after taking a direct snap up the middle.
Although the extra point try failed, St. Joe lead increased to 41-15 with 9:45 left in the game.
Although Bay was able to find the end zone on a Forehand to Davis pass to close the gap to 41-21, Chance Gainer’s 80-yard kickoff return dashed any slim hopes of a Tornado comeback. Another successful Peacock kick gave the Sharks a commanding 48-21 lead with less than five minutes remaining.
Allowing his starters a needed rest, Jones turned the defensive chores over the his JV players.
Bay scored its final touchdown with barely a minute remaining in the game on a 29-yard run by Davis.
With the outcome academic, Amison merely took a knee and St. Joe allowed the final seconds to tick away, giving the Sharks a 48-28 win.
Jones complimented Jones and Gainer for their second half heroics, along with the offensive line which is “dealing with a couple of injuries” suffered during practice.
“When we’re winning games,” said Jones, “we’re having big plays. Defensively, (Bay) found a weak spot up the middle on us, and we’ve got to fix that” after watching film.
Although Bay did manage to score 28 points, the Shark defense forced four punts, had four sacks, and one interception (Jabbara Pearson) for the night.
Next Friday, Oct. 22, Jones and the Sharks travel west to take on the winless Jay Royals at 8 p.m. Eastern before preparing for the first round of the Sunshine State Athletic Conference (SSAC) playoffs.
“Depending on where we fall (in the final standings),” said Jones, “if we’re the No. 1 seed, we’ll travel to Hilliard. If we’re the two-seed, then Mayo (Lafayette High) will come here.”