In Port St. Joe’s first meeting with Blountstown this season, a 41-yard field goal by the Tigers’ James Shores was the difference in a 3-0 home loss

COTTONDALE — In Port St. Joe’s first meeting with Blountstown this season, a 41-yard field goal by the Tigers’ James Shores was the difference in a 3-0 home loss. Thanks to an easy win over Cottondale in last Friday’s Region 2-1A semifinal, the Tiger Sharks will get another chance to knock off their arch rivals next week, though they’ll have to do so in Blountstown this time.

Port St. Joe used a dominant defensive performance and a balanced offensive attack to dispatch of the Hornets 49-6 and improve to 8-3 on the season. Cottondale’s season ends at 7-3. The Tiger Sharks dominated from start to finish, outgaining the Hornets 296 yards to 73 and turning three Cottondale turnovers into 21 points.

Aside from a first half in which the Tiger Sharks committed six penalties for 45 yards, there wasn’t much for interim coach Josh Dailey to complain about from his team.

“I thought our effort was good,” he said. “We played a little sloppy at times and had a lot of holding penalties and things like that, but the effort was there and I thought we got after it.”

Port St. Joe got off to a lightning fast start with two touchdowns within the game’s first 4:53, with a 2-yard touchdown run by Payton Edwards on the Tiger Sharks’ first drive followed by a defensive score when Bubba Ash scooped up a backwards pass by Cottondale quarterback Cameron Brook and raced 15 yards to the end zone to make it 14-0.

The Hornets answered with their best drive of the night by far, a 10-play, 60-yard march featuring runs of 11 and 22 yards by Brooks before the senior signal-caller finished it off by reaching the end zone from 2 yards out with 1:29 left in the first quarter.

A fumble by Brooks on Cottondale’s next possession was quickly turned into six points for Port St. Joe when Khayyon Zaccaro rushed for a 21-yard touchdown to make it 20-6. The Tiger Sharks struck through the air on their next series, as quarterback Josh Butts went deep down the field to a wide open Cameron Harmon for a 55-yard score. The two-point play by Jasmin Thomas made it 28-6 with 6:25 to halftime.

Port St. Joe quickly added to the lead in the second half with a 2-yard touchdown run by Thomas and a 17-yard touchdown rush by Edwards to go up 42-6 and trigger a running clock with seven minutes left in the third. Kelvin Griffin provided the final score with a 21-yard touchdown burst with just over five minutes left in the fourth.

Thomas led the PSJ rushing attack with 53 yards on five carries, followed by Octayvius Russ with 37 yards on two attempts, Zaccaro with 32 yards on three rushes, and Edwards with three carries for 29 yards and two touchdowns. Russell Russ rushed three times for 28 yards. Brooks was nearly the entire offense for Cottondale, carrying 31 times for 64 yards in his final high school game.

Hornets coach Tyler Addison said it was a satisfying season for the most part despite its inglorious end, giving credit to Port St. Joe for simply being better in all facets.

“I felt like the kids gave a lot of effort,” he said. “Just tonight we ran into a much better team, so hats off to them. Overall, we had a pretty good season. If you finish 7-3 you had a

pretty good year. I’m proud of our guys. They fought through some adversity with injuries and stuff and competed the whole time. I’m proud of them.”

The season moves forward for the Tiger Sharks, who take another shot at beating Blountstown on Friday in the Region 2-1A final.

“Blountstown is going to be very tough. We know that,” Dailey said. “We played them close last time. We have to have a good week of practice and really prepare to play with them because they’re a good ball club.”