FT. PIERCE — For the second week in a row, Sebastian River traveled the relatively short distance to Ft. Pierce to take on an undefeated team only to return empty-handed once again.
This week, the Sharks fell to sixth ranked Class 3A state power Ft. Pierce Westwood 28 to 12. Last time, the foe was Ft. Pierce Central in a District 14-4A matchup. Friday’s game was the third consecutive setback for the reeling Sharks (2-4). They will attempt to rebound within their district next Friday night at home versus South Fork.
The road (1-4) has not been friendly to the Sharks all season. Westwood (6-0) had the added incentive this evening of performing in front of their homecoming crowd.
Late arrivals still filing into the stadium missed some fast and furious football action during the first six minutes.
The Panthers took the opening kickoff from their own 20 and went the distance. When QB Travares Copeland hit tight end James Robinson for a 16 yard pass to complete the drive, the home team led 7-0.
The Sharks responded in kind, starting with a relentless ground assault before quarterback Norris Rogers connected with wideout Stephan Clark for 25 yards and six points. When the extra point kick failed, the visitors trailed 7-6.
Two spectacular plays then followed within the blink of an eye.
On the first snap from scrimmage after the kickoff, Copeland hooked up with wide receiver Wonderful Terry for an 85 yard pass/run combo that extended the Westwood margin to 14-6.
On the ensuing kickoff, Lamarcus Johnson countered in electrifying fashion for Sebastian River. The senior running back/kick returner grabbed the rock and rambled 90 yards to bring the Sharks back to within 14-12. An incomplete pass on a two-point conversion attempt left the deficit right there.
The fans must have thought the final score would be astronomical. The 26 points already on the scoreboard were put up in 5 minutes and 34 seconds. The last three touchdowns came in a span of 31 seconds.
That was it, though, for the heavy duty scoring. The teams had already been assessed a combined total of 65 yards in penalties through this early stage of the contest. That type of sloppiness would continue the rest of the way. Both would exceed 100 penalty yards for the game.
The halftime score stood at 14-12.
The Sharks amassed 10 first downs in the first two periods, establishing a reliable running game behind Nikko Finnegan and alternating Wesley Wilson and Norris Rogers under center. Most of that offensive production would be shut down in the second half.
On the third play of period three, Adrian Cox picked-off a Rogers pass and the Panthers were in business with good field position at their own 40. With the help of a facemask penalty and a 28 yard Copeland run off a scramble, a short pass to Cameron Toombs pushed Westwood’s lead up to 21-12.
The Panthers defense stiffened throughout the entire second half. Cox finished-off the scoring with a one yard plunge four minutes before the final gun went off.
Sharks head coach Randy Bethel was pleased with the early going, but troubled with what happened after that.
“We’ve got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot,” Bethel lamented. “We didn’t execute when we had our chances.”
The turning point in Bethel’s mind may have occurred just after halftime.
“We had a nice drive going at the start of the third quarter, and then we turn the ball over with an interception,” he said.
It wasn’t all bad, but the good was all too brief.
“We had a very good first half,” Bethel explained. “The effort by Lamarcus Johnson on the kickoff return was tremendous. The blocking was very good. He made several nice moves and was off to the races.”
South Fork (2-4) comes to Sebastian next week and what Bethel would appreciate most of all is a return to the win column.