Bartram Trail has not shied away from the fact this could be a memorable football season and proved as much in its playoff opener.
Friday’s 56-14 win over visiting Clermont East Ridge was as much a testament to the Bears overlooked special teams and defense as it was an offense that could not be stopped.
The Bears (8-3) have Northeast Florida’s most prolific offense, but deferred the coin toss. It’s a move that may have changed the tenor of the game because East Ridge muffed the opening kickoff.
Swarming special teams coverage meant East Ridge started at its own 6-yard line. A three-and-out, one of five the Bears’ defense forced on the night, gave the home team the football inside the East Ridge 40.
One week after barreling over Nease in a highlight that has since gone viral, Bartram Trail quarterback Riley Smith picked up where he left off. Smith ran for 14 yards on a quarterback draw on Bartam’s first offensive snap. Two plays later the 6-foot-5 Smith was darting through the Knights defense for a 19-yard touchdown run.
Smith finished 11 of 17 for 183 yards and three touchdowns. His only two carries of the night were on the first drive of the game. As he attempted to explain how the quarterback draw package is among his favorites, wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson playfully interjected to give his assessment.
“He’s just so good that when you have a quarterback like Riley, anything is possible with our offense,” Hutchinson said. “Then you have two quarterbacks who are talented, it’s just hard to stop. You have (Riley and) Joseph Peter Gatewood and then you have (running back) Devin Fletcher Ellison. He is too good.”
Ellison’s 4-yard touchdown run with 2:22 remaining in the first quarter gave Bartram Trail a 28-0 lead.
At that point, Bartram Trail had only run six offensive snaps because it started all four of its possessions on the Knights half of the field.
The only reason Bartram Trail was held to 210 yards in the first half was because the team’s superior special teams gave the Bears’ offense a short field. Bartram’s average field position for its seven possessions in the first half was the East Ridge 43-yard line.
For the game, the average starting field position for the Bears was midfield, while East Ridge’s was its own 18 yard line.
Midway through the first quarter, Bartram’s Rhett Barnett blocked an East Ridge punt. Corbein Hagans recovered at the Knights…