Port St. Joe football Coach Chuck Gannon said last week’s visit to Jefferson County was an early test for his young squad, which has just seven seniors on the roster.
The Tiger Sharks passed with flying colors.
Port St. Joe went out of the county for the first time this season and won its second-straight 38-7 to improve to 3-1.
The road gets no easier as the Tiger Sharks visit Chipley this week, but the long excursion to Monticello highlighted that this year’s squad is no easy mark.
“We talked about it as coaches on the way over and we just had a tremendous week of practice,” Gannon said. “Maybe the best week this year. We put in a lot of defensive adjustments because (Jefferson County) throws a lot, but the kids were focused and worked hard.
“And as the game kept going along we kept getting stronger. We are really pleased with the way they focused and played.”
The Tiger Sharks won with a familiar game plan.
They ran the ball well, rushing 44 times for 215 yards with Cole Cryderman (12 carries, 62 yards) and Dwayne Griggs (9 for 56) leading the way, while getting support from Carter Thacker’s 45 yards and five other backs who had positive rushing yards.
“We took care of the ball and ate up the clock,” Gannon said.
The Tiger Sharks also found a passing game, thanks in part, Gannon said, to an observation by assistant Coach Kenny Parker.
Gannon said Parker noticed that a Jefferson County safety followed a Shark going in motion across the formation, possibly opening up the tight end on the back side down the seam of the defense.
Sure enough, tight end Aaron Paul found open space twice on the same play – once before halftime, the second early in the third quarter – for a pair of touchdowns covering a combined 88 yards.
Quarterback Drew Lacour finished 4 of 5 for 106 yards with one interception.
“We thought we had a good game plan coming in,” Gannon said. “We thought we could do some things passing. We played good defense and moved the ball well in spots.”
The Tiger Sharks, on the road, were also called for just one penalty, for 10 yards.
The defense bottled Jefferson County up until it scored its lone touchdown late in the third quarter after the game was securely in the win column for the Tiger Sharks.
The Tiger Sharks had seven tackles for loss, forced one fumble and recovered two and intercepted three passes.
Helping lead the defensive charge as they have the past few weeks were brothers Marquez and Marcell Johnson, both linebackers.
Marcell had 15 tackles – he has been in double digits in tackles three weeks running – including 10 solo tackles.
Marquez added six tackles, including five solos.
An interception by Marquez set up one touchdown and late in the game he tipped a pass which Marcell gathered in at the Jefferson County 12 and carried into the end zone to score.
“We just played good defense,” Gannon said. “We were around the ball a lot.”
The defense, Gannon said, may have turned in the key sequence of the game late in the second quarter.
Port St. Joe went up early on a 27-yard field goal by Lacour.
The first of the two connections between Lacour and Paul made it 10-0 after Lacour’s extra point kick – he hit all five for the night – but Port St. Joe fumbled at the Jefferson County 6 to give the hosts a chance to close the gap.
The Tiger Sharks stuffed three consecutive runs and a pass to the tight end on fourth down was dropped and Port St. Joe had a 10-0 shutout at intermission.
Lacour and Paul connected again on the first drive of the second half, Cryderman and Griggs added rushing touchdowns and Marcell Johnson’s interception return completed the scoring.