Sharks Football Recap
By Sam Ritchie, Chloe Goode, Kennedy Rosendahl
The Ponte Vedra High School football team won their recent game over First Coast High School with a final score of 27-7. This brings their record to 2-2. The sharks had controlled the whole game, and defense really stepped up, only allowing seven points. Senior safety, Sam Soares, had a pick in the first half. And sophomore, Ben Burk was out with a scapula injury for the Sharks, so junior, Nathan Bunkosky had to take over the offense. He threw one touchdown to sophomore, Ryan Smith and senior, Mikey Stephens took care of the rest. Stephens had two rushing touchdowns, and helped lead the team to victory. Junior, Davis Ashcroft put the game away with three extra points and two field goals.
In the first quarter, the Sharks did not score, but did not allow their opponent to score. They had their fans on the edge of their seats. The students that showed up for the away game did not have to wait long for action though. In the second quarter, the Sharks scored twenty points, and only allowed seven. The offense exploded, with Mikey Stephens scoring his first touchdown and Nathan Bunkosky throwing a wide-open touchdown pass to Ryan Smith on the left side of the endzone. This was the first game this year that Nathan had started as quarterback. He explained, “Stepping up as quarterback against First Coast was definitely a challenge, but it was a challenge I had been practicing for. I’ve played quarterback a few times so I’m not too unfamiliar, so it was good to be moved out here and help the team. I’ve moved around to many positions, so it wasn’t stressful at all; I’ll do whatever it takes to get a win.” His confidence helped the Sharks come out on top against the FCHS buccaneers. The half ended with a score of 20-7 since Ashcroft hit his two field goals. In the second half, the defense did not allow any more touchdowns, and only allowed twelve rushing yards the whole game. Mikey Stephens had one more rushing TD in the third quarter, and the Sharks finished the game with a win. The players prepared for this game carefully after losing to BCHS. Jacob Gibbs elaborated on that, stating, “To prepare for this game, we watched film throughout the week and prepared for what we would expect from First Coast’s playstyle. I go 110 percent in the weight room and practices to get ready.” The Sharks were prepared for a physical game against the Buccaneers.
There were obvious changes from the previous game to this one. Trevor Rosendahl gave an inside look on how the Sharks were able to go from a loss to a huge win. As part of the coaching staff, Coach Rosendahl was able to see what the sharks needed to improve on before the next game. On the Baker County game, he stated, “We lost the battle on field position and turnovers early in the game, “Against a team this good (BCHS), we can’t afford to lose either.” In that game, the Sharks could not create on offense with only 142 yards. In their recent game, against FCHS, they had 331 yards, a clear improvement and indicator that PVHS controlled the field. Coach Rosendahl also talked about how to move on from the BCHS game. He said, “It is never easy losing a game. If this game of football was easy, then everyone would be doing it, and we would be out of a job. If you are not competing at PVHS, you are falling behind. When things do not go right, personalities are amplified. We are not going to sit around and pout at PVHS, we are going to see how we can get better.” The Sharks did not sit around and wait for First Coast, they went in head on and went from a 26-7 loss to a 27-7 win.
Overall, the Sharks had a great comeback from the previous game, and they controlled the game against FCHS. The Sharks defense held the Buccaneers to under 150 yards and converted on the offensive end. The running game was clearly superior for PVHS with 268 more rushing yards than their opponent. The Sharks have evened out their record and ready for their next game.
After bouncing back from their tough defeat against Baker County, the Ponte Vedra Sharks turned up the heat and easily beat First Coast. Continuing with that momentum they travelled to Saint Augustine to play against the Pedro Menendez Falcons. With a win streak of one at their backs, they put on a show rolling through the game with not only the win, but a 17-0 shutout win, nonetheless. While the score shows an easy victory the Sharks were fighting through some adversity in that game, specifically having Junior, Nathan Bunkoski replacing injured Sophomore, Ben Burke at quarterback. Bunkoski’s usual role on the team is wide receiver and free safety.
The game had a slow start to it with the first quarter ending without scoring. The first points came after Junior, Corey Bloss rushed for a huge gain only to get tackled just before the endzone. With that gain, Bunkoski was able to punch it in to put the first score up on the board for the Sharks. Shortly after, Bloss ran another one in, putting up the second touchdown of the second quarter, leaving the score at 14-0 at half. By that point, the team’s defenses battled head-to-head keeping one another out of the endzone for the rest of the game. The only scoring that was done in the second half was when Junior, Davis Ashcroft kicked a field goal late in the third quarter, getting the Sharks their last points to make the lead and the win 17-0. Even without a true quarterback as the starter, PVHS played admirably. Bunkoski led the team with a completion rating of 8/14 for 98 yards, making his completion rate above fifty percent. He also rushed for 65 yards and one touchdown. He alone contributed 163 yards to the total of 308 yards that game. Bunkoski was everywhere on the field on both offense and defense, contributing four tackles to the team’s total of 51. The other star of the show was Bloss who, like Bunkoski, fought hard on both sides of the ball. He ended the game with three tackles, 89 offensive yards, successful punt returns, and a touchdown all under his belt.
Nathan Bunkoski was up to the challenge of the unexpected position change. He had some experience from playing quarterback a little bit last year and in this year’s spring game. He spoke highly of the defense’s execution and his offense’s run game. However, saying that the passing game needs to get stronger for games to come. Offensive Coach Scott Owen agrees it is unfortunate that Burk got injured but moving Bunkoski to QB has opened up things in the run game and pass game thanks to his ability to run the ball. Agreeing with Bunkoski, their defense has been playing great, week in and week out. Their experience and physicality prove to be hard to beat. Offensively he wants to complement their defense by controlling the ball, driving the field, and scoring points. He points out Bloss’ huge running game. His excitement for each game is growing as their offense is coming together and getting better each week. One word comes to Coach Owen’s mind and that is consistency. “We have to be more consistent hitting our gaps, making our reads, holding our blocks, and throwing the football. We are on the verge of having some big nights offensively and just have to keep working. We have great kids and a great coaching staff led by Coach Price. Our culture is strong and it gets better every day. Everyone is having a great time being part of the process.”
Moving on with a 3-2 record, the Ponte Vedra Sharks have much to adjust to and continue to improve upon, but with this team and coaching staff, there is no doubt that they will continue to work until they earn a state title. Having a shut out at their backs will provide a huge boost to the Sharks’ confidence and help push them to continue to develop their potential into a championship team.
Coming into this week against the Fleming Island Eagles, the Ponte Vedra Sharks had a 17-0 shutout win against Menedez at their backs. Continuing the trend of only winning away games, the Sharks could not hold onto a win against the Eagles at home. This game brings their record to 3-3, three wins away and three losses at home. Nevertheless, the students of Ponte Vedra High School covered the student section with neon apparel. As per usual, the energy in the stands was unmatched, complete with cheers, neon themed apparel, and the roar of the crowd.
In preparation for this game, all eyes were on number 25 of the Eagles, the running back Sam Singleton. Averaging 103 yards per game and scoring a total of six touchdowns out of six games, the Sharks defensive line had their hands full. Credit to the Sharks defense for fighting hard the whole game, and while he had just over a hundred yards, that took him twenty-one carries and he never set foot in the end zone. Despite the loss, the Sharks did not go out without a fight, containing them to only one touchdown a quarter and continuing to strive for the end zone. In the fourth quarter they were finally able to put points on the board when the defense made a crucial stop allowing the offense to throw a quick touchdown pass to senior, wide receiver Luke Pirris. Despite the score, the offensive stats were similar as both teams had around 200 total yards gained. The PVHS defense combined for a total of sixty-four tackles in just one game. Without looking at the scoreboard, the stats and the game display grit, high performance, and determination that bled through every one of the players on that field and will continue to be a major factor in the playstyle of the Ponte Vedra Sharks.
Pirris gives credit to Fleming Island’s great run game and says that the adjustment made at halftime of selling out on the run and forcing them to pass was a good adjustment that could have been made sooner to help further eliminate their successful ground plays. Overall, he agrees they could have controlled the line of scrimmage better and improvement in all coverages is needed. However, the defense did tackle well for the most part. Coach Owen comments on Sam Singleton being ranked number four nationally, their big, strong, and fast defense, and smart ball control as key contributors to their victory. He is proud of the defense adjustments to Singleton and their success in limiting him in the second half. However, since they were only able to score late it just was not enough to come out on top of that game. Moving forward he states, “there are days when you go out there lay your guts on the line and come home empty handed. We have to do that every week, right till the end and leave on the field. We will make adjustments and tweak the game plan each week to give us the best chance.” He liked the success they had with Bunkowsky’s throwing and the yardage gained from his wide receivers and the good work from special teams which included a blocked punt, and some long kickoff returns. He closes with next week’s preparation explaining, “we have some wrinkles ready that we are working on for Bartram, we will continue to get better. We have to continue to get the ball in the hands of guys that can make plays, and those guys have to execute when they have the opportunity.”
Now with a fifty percent win rate, the Sharks must find a way to shake the home game losses and beat Bartram at home during the homecoming game. With much work to be done and even more motivation to do it, PVHS is putting everything they have into preparations for one of the biggest games of the year.