Wescott’s five rushing touchdowns lead Nease to 49-37 homecoming win over Creekside

Graham Martin/ Correspondent Creekside quarterback Tai Lavatai runs toward daylight during the first quarter of a Sept. 22, 2017 game against Nease. Lavatai ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more, but it was not enough as Nease won 49-37.

Preston Staples played one snap Friday night, Sept. 22. But that was enough for Nease’s convalescing quarterback.


His 30-yard touchdown pass to Ashton Wood as time expired at the end of the first half gave Nease a lead it would not relinquish.

After allowing 30 first-half points, Nease’s defense stiffened in the second half, which allowed for a happy homecoming in Pantherland.

Jareem Wescott’s five rushing touchdowns helped Nease produce a 49-37 win. Wescott wasted little time accruing the first of his 174 rushing yards. He took Nease’s first play from scrimmage around the left edge for a 70-yard touchdown run.

“It really wasn’t me. It was the (offensive) line,” Wescott said in reference to his first touchdown. “There was one guy I had to make a move on. Everything else was like walking in. The O-line blocked up everyone.”

Wescott’s run tied the game at 7-all with 8:35 remaining in the first quarter. His haymaker was a figurative counterpunch to the Panthers getting hit in the mouth by the Knights.

Creekside opened the game with a 10-play, 84-yard touchdown march. It was capped off by the first of Tai Lavatai’s five touchdowns on the night. The Knights (2-2) didn’t throw the ball a single time on the possession, and unabashedly ran behind senior right tackle Saul Storey and senior right guard Cory Carey.

“We start seniors and a junior on the offensive line,” said first-year Creekside football coach Sean McIntyre. “If we’re not moving people up front and being physical, knocking people around a little bit and being able to run the ball, then we’re not going to have very much success on any given night. Our kids up front played hard. We moved the ball pretty well in the first half. Nease started making some adjustments in the second half and started taking away some of the things that we were doing. Our kids continued to play hard and we had a chance until the end.”

In recent years, this game has been determined by big offensive performances. Creekside ran for more than 300 yards to beat the Panthers in 2013; Creekside’s Blake Morgan ran for five touchdowns in the Knights 2014 victory and Nease won the last meeting in this series, in 2015, behind a three passing touchdowns and no turnovers from then-quarterback Leighton Alley.

Friday, Nease only threw the ball one time. Wood’s touchdown was his second of the night. He finished with seven carries for 110 yards and a rushing touchdown.

“It’s always a good sign when you see the line extremely excited to run the ball every time,” Wood said. “Every time I called the play in the huddle, the line got all hyped up and they went (and hit someone).”

Nease lined up in an offense that would have made George Halas proud. Two weeks ago against Bishop Kenny, the Panthers lined up in a heavy formation — their version of the single wing is dubbed the Elephant package. Friday was more of the same, but this time the Panthers didn’t even bother to have a wide receiver on 90 percent of its snaps.

Why pass the ball when one can rack up 263 yards on the ground on only 13 first-half carries? Wescott had touchdown runs of 70, 13, and 1 yards in the first half. Wood had a 54-yard touchdown run with 5:59 left in the first quarter, which gave the home team a 14-7 advantage.

Wescott, Wood and Zach Sheffer (12 carries, 103 yards) all ran for more than 100 yards behind the offensive line of Nicholas Thorensen, Elijah Von Almen, Angel Rodriguez, Mike Vaughn, Payton Ryan and Bailey Kurjanowicz, and helped the Panthers gain 387 yards on the ground.

There was no edict that meant Nease or Creekide had to win by two. For the first 24 minutes of Friday night’s back-and-forth contest between the St. Johns County neighbors, it featured more scoring (65 points) than the most recent varsity basketball contest between the two schools (62 points).

Lavatai played his part in the offensive bonanza. Creekside’s junior quarterback ran for 159 yards and three touchdowns. Through the air, he was 11 of 24 for 208 yards and two touchdowns. His first pass was a 20-yard dime over the back shoulder of Liberty commitment J.T. Wood that gave Creekside a 17-14 lead with 8:20 left in the first half. The second caught the Panthers sleeping as Lavatai flipped to Gabe O’Hara, who sprinted up the visitor’s sideline for an 85-yard touchdown.

Wood said losing their homecoming game in 2016 was embarrassing. The Panthers wanted Friday’s win not solely for themselves, but their classmates. Wescott added a 4-yard run with two minutes to go in the third and a 5-yard run with two minutes left in the fourth to put the game away.

“We haven’t had anything like this,” Sheffer said. “We have to keep going. No matter how tired we got, we kept going. If we made a mistake, we fixed it. There was no one yelling at each other. We got better and better on every play.”

Nease 49, Creekside 37

Scoring Summary

First Quarter

C — Tai Lavatai 1-yard run (Brandon Marchand kick), 8:56

N — Jareem Wescott 7-yard run (Collin Hartley kick), 8:35

N — Ashton Wood 54-yard run (Hartley kick), 5:59

Second Quarter

C — Marchand 40-yard field goal, 11:17

C — Lavatai 20-yard pass to J.T. Wood (Marchand kick), 8:20

N — Wescott 13-yard run (Hartley kick), 5:58

C — Lavatai 85-yard pass to Gabe O’Hara (kick blocked), 4:41

N — Wescott 1-yard run (Hartley kick), 3:04

C — Lavatai 4-yard run (Marchand kick), 0:17

N — Preston Staples 30-yard pass to Wood (Hartley kick), 0:00

Third Quarter

N — Wescott 4-yard run (Hartley kick), 2:05

Fourth Quarter

C — Lavatai 1-yard run (Marchand kick), 7:10

N — Wescott 5-yard run (Hartley kick), 2:52

Records: Nease 2-2, Creekside 2-2