OAKLEAF - Oakleaf High football scored the last 22 points of the game to rally from a 15 point second half deficit to stun visiting Fleming Island 29-22 in overtime on Fri., Oct. 9, ending the Golden …
OAKLEAF - Oakleaf High football scored the last 22 points of the game to rally from a 15 point second half deficit to stun visiting Fleming Island 29-22 in overtime on Fri., Oct. 9, ending the Golden Eagles’ 16-game regular season winning streak and staking a claim to Clay County supremacy. Clay High won their game with West Nassau and remains the county's lone unbeaten team with the Knights hosting Clay on November 6 in the season finale.
“My heart rate is racing,” said Oakleaf head coach Frank Garis after the game. “It is a tremendous victory for us.”
It is unfortunate that the Covid-19 virus limited the seating capacity for this game, because it was a classic that will be long remembered at Oakleaf— and hard to forget at Fleming Island. It had a bit of everything. A safety. Two fake punts. An onside kick. Three turnovers. An inspirational halftime speech from a legendary alumnus. Penalties that nullified big plays. Fourth down stands. A do-or-die two point conversion. And finally, a tense overtime.
Fleming Island dominated the first two and a half quarters behind their one-two running back punch of Tim Thomas and Sam Singleton, each of whom ran for over 100 yards. The Golden Eagles ran the same play dozens of times, often repeating it for an entire drive. Lined up with one receiver split wide, wingbacks on each side of the interior line, and a running back next to quarterback Grant Travis in a shotgun formation, Travis would simply hand the ball off to either the 6-foot, 220-pound Thomas or the 6-1, 190-pound Singleton, who would follow a wingback into the middle behind center Evan Sheets and guards Michael Gloster and Cameron Longmire. T.K. Kocak, a 6-4, 230 pound wingback who lines up at quarterback in short yardage situations, and Thomas each scored on two yard runs to give the Eagles a 16-7 advantage at halftime. Fleming Island took the second half kickoff and marched 80 yards on 15 running plays. Kocak capped that drive, which took 8:20 off of the clock, with another two yard score. Aaron Montoya’s point after attempt hit the left upright, however, leaving the score at 22-7.
Though the Golden Eagles had outgained Oakleaf 301-113 to that point, fumble recoveries by the Knights’ Marcus Anthony and Darrell Livingston and a 61 yard scoring burst by Adrian Grey kept the Knights within striking distance.
Needing a change in scheme, Oakleaf started to have their defensive linemen submarine or cut the Golden Eagles’ offensive linemen. Basically, the Oakleaf front four dove forward and sideways, forcing the Fleming Island lineman to fall over them and create a mass of humanity at the line of scrimmage.
“Our defensive line played at a lower pad level in the second half, allowing our linebackers to run free,” explained Garis.
With no holes up the middle, Thomas and Singleton were forced to turn outside, where they were often met by Knights safety Chrystian Sellers, who had three tackles for loss, or a blitzing Marcus Anthony, who had moved back to his natural outside linebacker position from middle linebacker. The Golden Eagles did not score again, as Thomas and Singleton gained only 18 yards on their final 10 carries.
On offense, the Knights turned to wideout Cobie Bates. The senior had a game-high nine receptions for 116 yards, scored twice, and completed a game-tying two-point conversion pass. Going against a Fleming Island secondary with a reputation for athleticism, Bates repeatedly got open on short slant routes and turned them into bigger plays by breaking tackles and outrunning the Golden Eagles. Bates started the comeback late in the third quarter by taking a swing pass, faking out cornerback Darius Harris at the line, and then sprinting to the end zone from 27 yards out. Drew Ammon’s ‘s extra point trimmed the deficit to 22-14.
“He is explosive,” Garis said of Bates. “No matter where he is on the field, if we can get him the ball, he is going to make a play.”
The Golden Eagles moved the ball to the Knights’ 32 yard line on the ensuing possession, where Oakleaf made its first fourth down stand. Kocak took a direct snap and pounded into the line, but was met by linebackers Marcus Anthony and C.J. Kemp. He appeared to fall over the line to gain for a first down, but the referees’ spot of the ball left him three inches short with 8:01 remaining.
Oakleaf drew within two when Walter “Tre” Simmons, III, who threw for 175 yards and three touchdowns, found Terrance Anthony on a 10 yard in route. Anthony turned upfield and slipped tackle attempts by Devin Grind and Hunter Williams to complete a 23 catch and run with 2:55 remaining.
On the crucial two-point conversion attempt, Bates lined up at quarterback, drifted to his right on a run/pass option, and threw over the middle to Marcus Anthony, whose sliding catch tied the game at 22 and sent the home crowd into a frenzy. On the first series of overtime, Bates gathered in a slant pass from Simmons for the game-winning 15 yard score.
Fleming Island called four consecutive pass plays on their overtime possession. Travis tried to connect with receiver Darion Domineck in the end zone, then missed on a slant route to Will Stephens. On third down, Travis ended up running out of the pocket for a four yard gain. On the game’s final play, Travis found Kocak on a shallow crossing route, but Oakleaf cornerback Trey Thomas blasted Kocak two yards short of the goal line, touching off a raucous celebration on the home sideline.
The game got off to an odd start when the first snap of the game sailed over the head of Oakleaf’s Simmons and bounced all the way to the Knights’ end zone. Simmons was able to get to the ball first, but was covered up by the Golden Eagles’ Darryl Nesmith for a safety. The Knights took a 7-2 lead later in the first quarter on Grey’s run. Grey finished with for 108 yards on 14 carries.
Garis coached aggressively all game, calling for an onside kick after Grey’s touchdown and for a fake punt in the second quarter. The onside kick was unsuccessful, but the fake punt worked when Ammon passed down the middle to upback Marcus Anthony for a 22 yard gain. A fake punt attempt by Fleming Island failed when upback Abram Wright was swallowed up at the line of scrimmage for no gain.
Garis stepped aside at halftime to let Shaquille Quarterman, a former Oakleaf linebacker who currently plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars, deliver a halftime speech. The gist of Quarterman’s message was never to let the scoreboard dictate how you play.
“He is a permanent captain here,” Garis said of Quarterman. “The kids rallied around him.”
Fleming Island, now 4-1, found a new weapon in Stephens. The senior, who had not caught a pass yet this season, had six receptions for 103 yards. Head coach Damenyum Springs said that the Eagles, who had not lost a regular season game since October 12, 2018, must correct their mistakes and focus on First Coast, which visits the Golden Eagles on October 16.
“This game is done, it’s over with,” Springs said. “If you focus on the one [loss], it becomes two.”
Oakleaf improves to 3-2 and travels to Mandarin on October 16.