Port St. Joe spoiled the return of former football coach Greg Jordan with a 24-6 defeat of his Blountstown Tigers on Friday, September 30.
Playing the Tigers for the first time in two years, the Tiger Sharks improved to 4-1 on the season while sending Blountstown home with a 4-2 record.
The contest began on a high note for Blountstown, however, as defensive back Ja’marion Engram stepped in front of intended receiver Jabara Pearson to snatch Devin Cuttino’s bubble screen pass at the St. Joe 37 yard line before being stopped at the Shark 13 yard line.
Two consecutive penalties pushed the Tigers back 10 yards before running back Elam Johnson ran for 17 yards.
However, stalwart defensive play by Jay Stuckey and Tad Russell, aided by yet another Blountstown penalty, led to a loss of downs at the St. Joe 10 yard line.
Fans on both sides of the field grew weary of the frequent penalties called by the officiating crew from Quincy, with Blountstown being whistled a total of 12 times for 105 yards, and the Sharks being called nine times for 60 yards.
In addition, there were two occasions in which offsetting penalties were called. Both teams exchanged punts before the Sharks moved the ball from their own 18 to the Blountstown 32 yard line before turning the ball over on downs after two incomplete passes.
With PJ Jones and Corbin Butts dropping Tiger running backs for losses, St. Joe forced another Tiger punt, which traveled only nine total yards, giving the Sharks possession deep in Blountstown territory.
Needing only two plays, Jones scored from the 17 yard line on the first play of the second quarter. Zachery Burkett’s extra point gave St. Joe a 7-0 lead.
On their next possession, Blountstown held the ball for nearly five minutes before punting to the end zone, but disaster struck on St. Joe’s first play.
Defensive guard De’ante Reed grabbed Cuttino’s attempted pitch out of the air and rambled into the end zone from 15 yards out, but the Sharks retained a slim 7-6 lead when the Tiger two-point try failed.
Penalties and punts consumed most of the second quarter before St. Joe began its next scoring drive with 2:41 remaining before halftime, culminating when Jaydon Gant connected on a 16-yard field goal to end the first half with the Sharks leading 10-6.
“We figured he would be good from about the 25,” said Shark head coach Tanner Jones. “The other thing is Eli Harris and how good of a holder he is.”
During halftime, the Band of Gold once again entertained the crowd with selections from Earth, Wind, and Fire.
Performing double duty was cheerleader Jordan Pippin, who plays trumpet in the band. I
n the third quarter, each team punted twice before Blountstown tried to keep possession on a fourth-and-one play, only to be stuffed by Saylor Tull to give the Sharks the ball with 51 seconds in the frame.
After offsetting penalties, Cuttino dropped back and threw a perfect spiral to the speedy Pearson, who outran the defensive back to complete the 41-yard touchdown play.
“We felt like they couldn’t cover Jabara,” said Jones. “He’s going to catch it or they’re going to hold him.”
Burkett’s extra point increased the St. Joe lead to 17-6 with only 29 seconds in the quarter.
Holding the ball for nearly half of the fourth quarter, Blountstown methodically moved the ball to the Shark 17 yard line before the Tiger Sharks secured the win.
Facing a fourth-and-six play, the Tigers chose to throw the ball, but TJ Jenkins snatched the ball at the seven yard line and followed a convoy of blockers up the left sideline until he was finally brought down at the Blountstown nine, an 84-yard return.
“TJ’s in the right place at the right time,” said Coach Jones. “And then just a great job of our guys blocking and getting him down there.”
LaJuan Zaccaro willed his way across the end line on the first play, and Burkett’s kick gave the Sharks a commanding 24-6 lead with only 6:07 before the final horn.
“We told LaJuan, you’ve got four plays to go nine yards,” Jones said. “Hold on to the ball, (and) we’re going to run this clock out regardless, and give them a long field.”
“LaJuan told me, ‘y’all block, and I’ll score,’ and that’s what happened.”
After forcing another Tiger punt, the Sharks ran the clock out and the celebrations began.
“We feel that we’re going to play this team again,” said Jones. We’re going to play Blountstown again in the playoffs.“
One thing that Jones and the other Sharks are hoping is that running back DJ Oliver will be cleared to play by that time.
Another concern for the Sharks is the status of lineman Uwenses Benedict, who went down with a knee injury on St Joe’s second offensive play.
“We’ll get him an MRI and x-rays and hope for the best,” said Jones.
Although Blountstown “won” the time of possession (29:06 – 18:43), the Port St. Joe defense held the Tiger offense to a grand total of 106 yards, 101 on the ground, and forced seven punts.
Stuckey, Tull, Butts, PJ Jones, Russell, Darion Cherry, Chance Gainer, Chase Lanford, Asher Peacock, and Kellen Speights led a swarming Shark attack on defense that made the Blountstown runners earn every yard.
After enjoying homecoming week, the Sharks will host the winless Vernon Yellowjackets this Friday, October 7. “It’ll be fun for the guys,” said Jones. “They can decompress, and relax a little bit.”