Facing what head coach Tanner Jones described as “the grittiest team we’ve faced all year,” Port St. Joe emerged with a 20-10 win over South Walton this past Friday, October 21, improving to 7-1 on the season.
“All of us coaches were impressed with how hard they played,” Jones said of the Seahawks, who fell to 4-4.
After South Walton shocked St. Joe by taking an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter, DJ Oliver struck for a 95-yard touchdown run, but a penalty nullified the play before the Sharks managed to knot the score at 7-all toward the end of the first quarter.
Oliver, who ran roughshod over Bozeman the prior week with 204 yards rushing and two scores on a mere eight carries along with a 75-yard punt return for a third touchdown, managed 137 yards and the final Shark touchdown on 18 carries against the Seahawk defense.
Quarterback Devin Cuttino threw for 90 yards and a touchdown (Kellen Speights), and ran for another 59 yards and a score. PJ Jones nearly broke the century mark with his 97 yards on the ground.
Against Bozeman, Cuttino amassed 231 yards passing and 96 yards rushing, accounting for three scores.
As they have done so often this season, the Shark defense swarmed to the ball, led by Corbin Butts, Oliver, Asher Peacock, Andrew Sheppard, Speights, Jay Stuckey, Saylor Tull, and LaJuan Zaccaro.
The Sharks recorded a total of eight sacks, led by Oliver’s three and Butts’ two. Sheppard, Peacock, and Gavin Lee had one each.
Speights added an interception, and Chance Gainer deflected three Seahawk passes in addition to his three tackles.
South Walton went ahead 10-7 on a field goal in the second quarter, but St. Joe pushed another score across before halftime to go into the locker room with a 13-10 lead.
Neither team scored again until Oliver’s short fourth quarter touchdown run with under a minute to play secured the Shark 20-10 win.
“We had our chances to score more, and didn’t capitalize,” said Jones. “But we weathered the (Seahawk) storm, and I felt confident that we were the better team. I was just waiting for it to click.”
Next up for St. Joe is perennial rival Blountstown on Friday, October 28. In spite of the Tigers having a 5-4 record following their 28-19 loss against Walton last Friday, the Sharks will be the visiting team.
“MaxPreps has us as the nine seed, and Blountstown as the 11. As we win, our strength of schedule goes down, and their loss helps their strength of schedule,” said Jones.
“If we win,” he added, “we should be the number one seed, and may be playing Blountstown again. The odds of us playing Blountstown three times this year are great.”
“But we still have work to do” to get ready, Jones said.
This report has been updated from an earlier version to correct an error in the description of the gameplay.