The Port St. Joe Tiger Sharks received an early taste of what 2013 will be like during last Friday’s Kickoff Classic in Blountstown.
Facing two opponents, the host Tigers and Vernon, with a distinct size advantage in the trenches, the Tiger Sharks absorbed some lessons about survival as the regular season begins 8 p.m. ET Friday at county rival Wewahitchka.
“We don’t think we played as well as we could,” said Port St. Joe coach Chuck Gannon. “We were kind of outmanned upfront.
“And while we thought some of the younger kids played better than we thought they could or gave them credit for, some of the older kids, our juniors and seniors though not all of them, did not play as well as we thought they could.”
The Tiger Sharks faced the bigger, deeper Tigers in the opening half of play.
Gannon said before the game that staying with Blountstown would significantly rest with the defense’s ability to put up points. That was prophetic as Natrone Lee provided the lone Port St. Joe points when he returned a fumble for a touchdown and an early 7-all tie.
Blountstown went on to dominate the 24 minutes, posting a 20-7 win.
“We had some good signs but there are definitely things we have got to work on,” Gannon said. “We had a couple of big plays, but we are going to have to be a team that picks up the five, seven, three yard gains.
“We are going to have to move the chains and melt the clock to have success.”
What impressed Gannon were some younger players, primarily seventh- and eighth-graders, who Gannon thought might be intimidated by the larger Tigers, but who played hard and tough.
“I thought some of our younger players played pretty hard,” Gannon said. “They responded to the challenge. We were just overmatched.
“But on the other hand I am very disappointed that some of our older players did not respond to the challenge and did not play well.”
The defense, in general, played well, Gannon said, but the offense, led by quarterbacks Drew Lacour (4 for 7 for 66 yards with two interceptions) and Dwayne Griggs (who finished with 27 rushing yards on seven carries), failed to maintain consistency.
“I thought Griggs played hard, he showed toughness we didn’t know he had,” Gannon said. “That was a positive.”
The offense finally responded during the second half as the Tiger Sharks faced Vernon.
The Yellow Jackets employed a Veer on offense, a scheme Gannon said Port St. Joe did not work on defending much in practice, and also came out fresh after Port St. Joe had battled Blountstown.
After Vernon scored the first touchdown, the Tiger Shark attack awoke.
“We were worn down a little bit and they were fresh, but after they scored we responded with a nice long drive,” Gannon said.
Lacour finished the drive by scoring on a quarterback sneak.
The Tiger Sharks did not score again while Vernon added a second touchdown for a 14-7 decision.
For the night, Carter Thacker has two receptions for 28 yards and Aaron Paul had a 36-yard reception.
Jak Riley had 12 rushing yards on one carry, Lee carried seven times for 10 yards and Jasmin Thomas had 12 yards on four carries.
The Tiger Sharks finished with 66 yards passing and 64 yards rushing.
Port St. Joe had one penalty for five yards.
Port St. Joe enters the first week of the regular season in relatively good health, Gannon said. Jacobie Jones, who tweaked a knee two weeks ago in practice, was held out of the Kickoff Classic but should be ready Friday.
“We know Wewa is big, they have the (Rashard) Ranie kid and their big back (Javar Hill) and they are going to try and stuff it down our throats,” Gannon said. “We have to be ready for the challenge.”