FLEMING ISLAND- The Palatka High School football team endured a 23-point run from the Fleming Island High in the first five minutes of Friday night’s clash, outscoring their opponents, 7-6, through the next three quarters.
Unfortunately, it was that start that eventually did in the Panthers as the Golden Eagles cruised to a 29-7 victory, leaving the Panthers at 0-2 for the season.
Palatka head coach Willie Fells said the team came out flat on special teams. He said his Panthers have to keep getting better, adding the team eased into the game after a tough start, though turnovers were an issue. Palatka suffered an interception and lost three fumbles.
“Honestly, if you only have 20 yards to go when you run a kick back, you’ve got some issues starting out the gate,” Fells said. “They couldn’t score on us once we settled down.”
In a game that started 35 minutes later than the scheduled time due to lightning in the area, the problems began at kickoff with a penalty that led to a short kick and Fleming Island’s Darion Domineck returning the ball to Palatka’s 13-yard line. Three rushes from running back Timothy Thomas earned the Eagles their first touchdown.
The Panthers first drive culminated in minus-10 yards rushing and an errant snap on fourth down which resulted in the punter booting the ball out of the end zone for a safety. When the Panthers gave the ball back to the Golden Eagles, Sam Singleton sashayed his way through Palatka’s special teams unit on a 55-yard return for a touchdown.
The Panthers then went three-and-out with three runs. The Golden Eagles got a great return to Palatka’s 20-yard line on their next drive and took two plays before quarterback Grant Travis found Domenick in the end zone from 10 yards out.
After another quick drive from the Panthers, a long drive from the Eagles spanning nearly 60 yards ended with a muffed punt recovered by Palatka. Turnovers, more than 100 yards in penalties, dropped snaps and inefficiency in the passing game stunted the Eagles hot start and brought Palatka back into the game.
The third quarter saw a Palatka fumble early and Golden Eagles running back Musthafa Marshall carried his team down the field, but it ended in a blocked field goal. That turnover sparked a key drive that finally saw Palatka’s running game break through.
Running backs Te’ontray Myles and Delton Nealy Jr. each gained 32 yards downfield before Nealy secured a 3-yard score for Palatka’s only touchdown of the night.
Consecutive drives from both teams fizzled out in the fourth quarter. On the Golden Eagles’ next drive early in the fourth quarter, Marshall picked up 25 yards on two carries, before a gutbusting 30-yard run ended in a fumble recovered by the Panthers at their 15-yardline.
Palatka, however, fumbled the ball on the next play, and Fleming Island running back Jhace Edwards scored a play later to make the game 29-7, though Palatka blocked the extra point.
Palatka will travel to Ponte Vedra on Friday night.