The Fort Meade JV Miners began their season last Thursday with a road trip to south county rival Frostproof. It was indeed a tale of two halves as the Miners fell by a final score of 33-20.
Frostproof basically won the game in the first half by jumping out to a 27-0 lead. Fort Meade would manage three scores in the second half but it was too little, too late.
Much of the slow start could be attributed to a lack of experience and practice, as many on the JV squad are playing high school football for the first time and the county restricted starting in pads to last week.
JV Coach Clinton Cornelius confirmed those causes. “The first half was kind of tough because this was the first taste of high school football for many of our boys,” said Cornelius. “We’ve been out there for two weeks but only had a day and a half in pads, which limited what we could teach and do.”
The snowball effect began and lasted beyond the first half, as the Bulldogs took advantage early and often.
On the fifth play, Frostproof scored on a 67-yard bomb when the lone Miner defender back deep tripped and fell, leaving the ‘Dog receiver wide open for the first Frostproof score.
The Miners then were forced to punt on their first series and Diego Maldonado launched his first kick high and deep to the Bulldog 30. But poor coverage by the Miners made for an easy return for Frostproof, who padded their lead to 14-0.
Following the kickoff, Fort Meade again made it Christmas in September, fumbling the ball back to Frostproof at the Miner 23 yard line. Two plays later, the Dogs scored their third touchdown within the first six minutes of the ballgame and they were not done.
On their next offensive series, the Miners stalled and, again, Maldonado booted a beautiful punt- a high, spiraling 44 yard kick all the way to the Dog 20 yard line. But once again, the coverage wasn’t there and an 80 yard Bulldog punt return increased the lead to 27-0. To add insult to injury, Frostproof blocked Maldonado’s third punt attempt, but fortunately for the Miners, failed to score off the mishap.
The second half bore little resemblance to the first, except for the Bulldogs taking the on the role of gift-givers. On their first possession, Frostproof advanced down to the Miner 13 yard line, only to fumble the ball away at the 15. Starting Miners quarterback DeAndre Holley shifted to tailback to make way for backup Connor Slay.
Slay was the good soldier, faithfully handing the ball to a bevy of Miner backs. A 34 yard burst by Chris Combee quickly moved Fort Meade to the Dog 23 yard line.
Two plays later, Ladarius Clark zipped around end and raced to the endzone, even getting help from Slay, who threw a downfield block to help his teammate on the 21 yard touchdown run, completing the 85 yard drive for the young Miners.
After an exchange of fumbles, Frostproof tacked on their final points on a 30 yard pass play with 9:53 left in the game. But the Miners would not quit. Beginning their drive at their 21 yard line, Fort Meade went backwards on a penalty, making it 1st-and-15. A run gained eight yards.
Facing a 3rd-and-7, Slay attempted his first-ever pass and, by golly wow, found Combee for a 14 yard first down completion. A four-yard Slay scramble and another 15 yard run moved the ball to the Dog 43 yard line.
Combee took it from there, racing down the guest sideline for the long touchdown run and, following Maldonado’s second successful PAT kick, the Miners had cut the Bulldog lead to 33-14.
Frostproof proved generous again, giving the ball to Fort Meade at their 47 yard line on a failed fake-punt with three minutes left in the game. With the running game still clicking, the Miners moved to the Bulldog 9 yard line, where they faced a final-play,
3rd-and-4 with just seconds left. The “Connor-to-Combee Combo” worked yet again, as Combee burst through for the touchdown, setting the final margin at 33-20.
When asked about the effort and fight in his JV group, the head coach voiced his approval. “They really fought hard,” said Cornelius. “On the last play at the goal-line, I asked them, ‘All I need is four yards, and the line said, ‘Okay, Coach, we got it!’ They pushed ’em back and did it. So I’m real proud of them. They’ve got a lot of fight in them. I see a bright future.”
Hopefully the experienced gained and the momentum of a solid second half will carry over for the Miner JV this week. The boys are on the road again as they travel down to Avon Park at 7 p.m.