FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island running back Sam Singleton ran for a school record 274 yards and four touchdowns as host Fleming Island thrashed Atlantic Coast 42-7 in a Region 1-7A semifinal on …
FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island running back Sam Singleton ran for a school record 274 yards and four touchdowns as host Fleming Island thrashed Atlantic Coast 42-7 in a Region 1-7A semifinal on Fri., Nov. 27.
“Sam is going to give you everything he’s got in every game,” said Fleming Island head coach Demenyum Springs. “He was running through tackles, keeping his feet moving, and taking it to the house.”
The sophomore’s four scoring runs were similar. On the first three, he took a handoff from quarterback T.K. Kocak in the backfield, went off tackle, shed a Stingray defender at the line of scrimmage, and then outran the secondary to the end zone. Singleton, a sprinter on the Golden Eagles track team, was never touched as he sped to the goal line on his fourth score, a 58 yard scamper.
One thing is certain: Singleton likes to run against Atlantic Coast. He racked up a Fleming Island freshman record 246 yards rushing in a 41-17 victory over the Stingrays last season.
While Singleton did the heavy lifting on offense, the Golden Eagles defense came up with big plays to contain the Atlantic Coast offense. The Stingrays either started drives in or reached the Fleming side of the field on six of their first seven possessions, but went zero for three on fourth down conversions and suffered two interceptions.
Knowing the Golden Eagles would have to deal with the potent passing combination of Stingrays quarterback Ridge Jacobs and wide receiver Pat Bryant, cornerback Darrius Harris was assigned to cover Bryant, a 6’3” speedster who is committed to playing for Illinois next Fall, on every play. With safety help on deep routes, Harris limited Bryant to three catches in the first half.
“Darius Harris is an underrated cornerback,” said Springs. “He has covered a lot of three star and four star recruits, and he has locked them down.”
Safeties Darryl Nesmith and Dedric Walker made critical interceptions on deep passes intended for Bryant. Nesmith made a leaping catch at the Golden Eagles’ four yard line in the first quarter, and Walker’s theft on the second play of the second quarter stymied a Stingrays’ drive that had reached the Fleming 17 yard line. Fleming Island led only 7-0 at the time.
The Fleming Island front seven snuffed out the Stingrays’ running game all evening, limiting running back Arthur Walker to 40 yards on 12 carries. Hunter Williams and Tyler Cross each had two of the Golden Eagles’ nine tackles for loss. Bryan Maddox, Abram Wright and Garrison Butler registered sacks. Cornerback Devin Grind nailed Walker for a six yard loss on a fourth down inside the red zone.
“Our defensive line applied pressure, and our defensive backs covered well,“ said Springs after the game. “Bryant is a good receiver, and he is always going to get his catches.”
Bryant finished with seven receptions for a game-high 154 yards. He scored on a 63 yard catch and run in the third quarter, but by that time the Golden Eagles were firmly in control with a 28-0 lead. Bryant credited Harris.
“He [Harris] is a lot more physical than other cornerbacks,” said Bryant. “And he is very disciplined. He stayed deep, instead of taking my fakes.”
The Golden Eagles scored on their second possession of the game when starting running back Tim Thomas ploughed into the end zone from two yards out to complete a two-play, 37 yard drive. Thomas was not used much after suffering an apparent foot injury in the third quarter, but still gained 98 yards on seven carries.
Singleton scored twice in the second quarter, capping a 61-yard drive with a 15 yard scamper and speeding 41 yards to give the Golden Eagles a 21-0 halftime lead. The second touchdown was set up by outside linebacker Jhoel Robinson, who smothered Bryant for a nine yard loss before he could get off a rugby punt.
Kocak, who contributed 69 of Fleming Island’s 445 rushing yards, put the game away with a three yard run that capped an 88-yard, eight play drive on the Golden Eagles’ first possession of the second half.
Singleton scored on consecutive runs covering 72 and 58 yards late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter to set the yardage record. The 5’11”, 175 pounder averaged 14.4 yards per carry on his 19 rushes.
The Golden Eagles, who improved to 9-2, attempted only one pass all game, but Springs is not worried about a lack of balance heading into the regional final on December 4 against Niceville, who comes to Fleming Island undefeated after a 38-35 double overtime win over Gainesville Buchholz. Buchholz defeated Fleming Island 24-21 on October 23.
“We have a passing game,” he said. “But we have got to take what the defense gives us.”
Springs thinks his Golden Eagles have an even chance against Niceville.
“Fleming Island has never been past the third round of the playoffs before,” he said. “We are looking forward to it, and want to take advantage of having home field.”
Atlantic Coast completes it season with a 5-6 record. Jacobs threw for 197 yards, completing 14 of 24 passes.