Courtesy of Sissy Worley
Port St. Joe completed a remarkable turnaround season with a 20-6 win at Sneads last Friday night.
The victory came in the final game of the 2012 season, which saw the Tiger Sharks open 1-2 before reeling of five straight wins, the victory at Sneads the sixth in the season’s final seven games as Port St. Joe finished 7-3 overall.
A far cry removed from two consecutive losing seasons in which the Tiger Sharks limped to the end.
Coming off a bitter one-point loss at Liberty County, which ended Port St. Joe’s shot at the postseason on what could be charitably called a controversial note, the Tiger Sharks suffered no letdown on the season’s final Friday night under the lights.
“The main thing I told them after (Liberty County) was let’s not let one game spoil the season and let’s have the seniors go out with seven wins,” said Coach Chuck Gannon of seniors Josh Cabiniss, Tyler Worley, Ricky Pennington, Joe Lover, Dusty Richter, Ramello Zaccaro, Dallas Burke and Corey North.
“The team practiced very hard and got after it and played well against Sneads.”
Zaccaro paced the offense, picking up 136 rushing yards and touchdown on 12 carries while Jarkeice Davis added 119 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Justin Hites converted two of three extra-point kicks and the defense added a touchdown when Worley recovered a Sneads fumble in the end zone.
Meanwhile the Tiger Shark defense, led by the front seven of Worley, Jacobie Jones, Davis, North, Love and Cole Cryderman, held the Pirates to less than 100 yards rushing and less than 130 yards of total offense.
The season ended prematurely for the Tiger Sharks in that by the end of the year there might not have been a better 7-3 team in their classification, Gannon said, and Port St. Joe could point to a handful of plays separating them from the playoffs.
“I was pleased with the season,” Gannon said. “You feel bad you are seven or so points away from the playoffs (Liberty County beat Port St. Joe by one; Blountstown by eight). It’s unfortunate. But give the kids credit. They stayed with it and really enjoyed playing the entire season. There was a real camaraderie there.
“Getting back a few of the seniors like Dusty Richter and Dallas Burke really helped and all the seniors stepped up and bought into what we are doing as far as discipline, hard work, dedication and getting in the weight room. And Jarkeice (a sophomore) really stepped up. He still has a way to go, but he really stepped up and did a good job.”
The season seemed to swing in the week leading up to and after Blountstown.
Having opened 1-1 after a one-sided loss to Bozeman, Port St. Joe dominated the first half against the Tigers and nearly pulled out the game, save for two second-half plays that provided Blountstown the final margin of victory.
“We played our butts off against Blountstown and came up two plays short,” Gannon said. “I told the team after that, are we a fluke team that played well against Blountstown or are we going to show we are even better than we were against Blountstown.”
The question was answered the following Friday when Port St. Joe clobbered then-third ranked Holmes County to begin a five-game winning streak.
“Each week fed off the previous one,” Gannon said. “This was one of the most enjoyable teams I’ve been around and I told them that.”
Gannon loses eight seniors – roughly one-third the varsity roster – to graduation, but was pleased with the final results of 2012 and looking forward to better in 2013.
“After last Friday it kind of sunk in that this was the end of the football season and many of the players were now going off to other sports,” Gannon said. “I told them when you get to those other sports, don’t sit in the back, be a part of it, you know what it takes to win, the dedication, the hard work, the discipline you need to win.
“We’ve got to get stronger still so we have our work cut out in the weight room. We are going to need to keep people healthy (next year). We don’t have a lot of kids and there are some in school we hope will come out. But we have a pretty good nucleus coming back.”