Sharks Fantastic Season Comes to an End

By Johnny Inama

     The Ponte Vedra High School (PVHS) Sharks football team played in the 4S regional semifinal against the Buchholz High School (BHS) Bobcats on Nov. 17. The Sharks were coming off a 49-36 victory the week prior against Creekside High School, while the Bobcats were coming off a 59-0 victory against Mosley High School. Buchholz came in with an 11-0 record, making the Sharks a large underdog with an 8-3 record.

     The Bobcats received the opening kickoff, but on the fourth play of their drive, Sharks senior defensive back, Aidan VanCannon, intercepted a pass and took it back for a touchdown, putting the Sharks up 7-0 early. Buchholz responded with a field goal on their second drive, and the first quarter ended with a score of 7-3 Ponte Vedra. The Sharks offense was on the goal line to start the second quarter, and they punched it in on the first play of the second quarter with a touchdown run from junior running back, Brian Case, to give the Sharks an unexpected 14-3 lead. The Bobcats responded with a long passing touchdown, cutting the Sharks lead to four points. The Sharks offense failed to respond and were forced to punt, and the Bobcats took advantage of the punt and scored another long touchdown, this time on the ground, and the Sharks had lost their two score lead in just nine minutes of play. The Sharks offense was forced to punt yet again, and the Bobcats were given less than two minutes to expand their lead, which is exactly what they did as their scored another long passing touchdown to make it 24-14 Buchholz going into the half. The offense for the Sharks hit a wall in the second quarter, and Buchholz capitalized off multiple punts to completely swing the momentum going into the second half.

“We had a great season and the team as a whole improved a lot throughout the year. We didn’t complete all of our goals but we built this program up and I’m excited to see how the underclassmen make Ponte Vedra High School football a better program.”

Cole madson (12)

     The Sharks got the ball to start the third quarter, but they had a quick three and out and were forced to punt yet again, and a good return from Buchholz put them just outside the 20 for their first drive of the second half. The Sharks defense gave up another long passing play, and they were now on the goal line for third and goal. The Bobcats punched it in and expanded their lead to 17 points. The offensive struggles continued for the Sharks, and Buchholz capitalized off these struggles with a field goal before the end of the third quarter to make it 34-14 going into the fourth quarter. The Sharks offense finally found success a few minutes into the fourth quarter with a 67-yard passing touchdown to senior wide receiver, Cole Madson, to make it 34-21 Buchholz with less than five minutes remaining. There was not enough time to spark a comeback for the Sharks, and they suffered a heartbreaking loss in the playoffs, which meant the end of the season for the Sharks.

     Senior quarterback, Ben Burk, finished 11 for 24 for 207 passing yards with a touchdown and three interceptions, with another 31 yards rushing. Case finished with 12 carries for 46 yards and a rushing touchdown. The Sharks leading receiver was Madson with four receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown. Junior edge rusher, Robbie Grieco, had the lone sack for the Shark defense. VanCannon had the pick six early in the game that was returned for 35 yards. Senior kicker and punter, Evan Redmond, finished three for three on extra points and had four punts for 139 net yards.

     Despite the tough loss, this season was largely successful for the team. It was the first winning season since the 2019-2020 season, and many players contributed to a great season. Burk finished the season with a 59.3 percent completion percentage for 2,226 passing yards with 23 passing touchdowns and nine interceptions, with another 633 rushing yards and a single rushing touchdown. Case finished with 1,174 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns, with another 253 receiving yards and a single receiving touchdown. The Sharks leading receiver was Madson, with 38 receptions for 775 yards and six touchdowns. Senior wide receiver, Ryan Smith, finished with 23 catches for 479 yards and five receiving touchdowns. Senior wide receiver, Griffin Owen, had 24 catches for 427 yards and three touchdowns. Junior tight end, Landon Okla, had 20 catches for 305 yards and led the team with eight receiving touchdowns. Senior defensive back, Ridge Richardson, led the team in tackles with 96 tackles, with four for a loss and two sacks. There was a three-way tie for the sack leader, shared with senior edge rusher, Cortez Juarbe, Grieco, and sophomore defensive tackle, JP Dolan. Senior linebacker, Maddux Babin, led the defense in interceptions with three, followed by VanCannon with two and four other players with a single interception. Senior defensive back, Joe Mahoney, had three blocked field goals along with the most passes defended with 14. Senior kicker, Evan Redmond, averaged 52.4 yards per kickoff with five touchbacks, went five for eight on field goals, and 47 for 48 on extra points with 36.3 average yards per punt.

     This season was undoubtedly a success for a program that had struggled to find a winning record for years. “We had a great season and the team as a whole improved a lot throughout the year. We didn’t complete all of our goals but we built this program up and I’m excited to see how the underclassmen make Ponte Vedra High School football a better program,” said Madson. Their seven-game win streak was a streak of dominance, outscoring opponents 249 to 60 from weeks two to eight. They also won their first playoff game since the 2016-2017 season, and the Sharks came very close to winning the district title. “We accomplished a lot this season with our first playoff win in years, it was a fun and memorable season and I’m looking forward to next year,” said Case.

Pictured: Ben Burk (12) preparing for the ball to be snapped


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