Five St. Johns County football games moved to Thursday; St. Augustine at Ponte Vedra canceled

Bartram Trail quarterback Joey Gatewood (2) looks to run during a game at Daytona Beach Mainland on Monday. Three days later, the Bears will be back in action in a home game against Clay. [News-Journal/Nigel Cook]

For the third time in as many years St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra might not meet on the football field. This time, it’s the skies and not the schedule maker that is the culprit.

 

The St. Johns County School District canceled school and suspended all events and activities from Friday through at least Monday due to the threat of Hurricane Irma.

“Our first priority is keeping the kids safe,” said Paul Abbatinozzi, the district’s senior director for school services. “As we follow the progress of the storm we’ll keep our athletic directors notified about the next steps.”

Five football games involving county teams have been moved to tonight from Friday, but Ponte Vedra has not rescheduled its home game against the Yellow Jackets.

The game could not be played tonight because Ponte Vedra has its Open House scheduled, Sharks coach Matt Toblin said.

A date for a rescheduled contest has not been announced, although both teams have an open date on Oct. 6.

Tonight’s slate has Creekside at Paxon at 6 p.m.; Nease hosting Bishop Kenny at 6:30; Menendez at Yulee and St. Joseph at Eagle’s View, both at 7 p.m.; and Bartram Trail hosting Clay at 7:30 p.m. in the second game of a doubleheader that will begin with a junior varsity contest.

“You want to do everything you can to make sure we can play,” Creekside coach Sean McIntyre said. “The kids put in a lot of work all year to play 10 games. They deserve to go play.”

But the contest that has received the most attention heading into this week won’t be moved up.

“Taking a bye this early is never advantageous,” Toblin said. “We would have loved to have found a way to make it work. Unfortunately, we have Open House on Thursday. Academics have to come first. The optics of canceling Open House to play a football game, we can’t claim we’re academics first and then cancel Open House.”

Whether the two play each other on Oct. 6 remains to be seen. Toblin and St. Augustine athletic director Jeff Holland said playing on that date has been discussed, but there is a concern that one or both teams would be forced to play as many as 13 straight weeks if they advanced to their respective state title games.

“I’m open to it,” St. Augustine coach Brian Braddock said of rescheduling the game to Week 7. “But there is no rush, it’s a month away. I don’t like not having a bye the week before three district games, and it’s the same for them, but I think a lot of people in both communities want to see this game. The game was scheduled on purpose because we’re two really good programs, and that carries a lot of weight too.”

Braddock said he and Toblin will be in touch in the next couple of weeks. He said the Yellow Jackets and Flagler Palm Coast officials have already talked about the possibility of moving their Sept. 15 game to Saturday, Sept. 16 if school is also canceled on Tuesday, which would have left just Wednesday and Thursday as practice days.

“Next week we’ll be more impacted than this week,” Braddock said. “If next week’s games get canceled, of course we’ll want to make sure we have a ninth game.”

St. Augustine played Menendez on Labor Day last year because of Hurricane Hermine. Ponte Vedra’s game with Palatka in Week 2 last year was canceled. The Sharks’ game with Bartram Trail on Oct. 7 last year was canceled because of Hurricane Matthew, but that game was rescheduled two weeks later when both teams had a mutual bye. St. Augustine had a bye on Oct. 7, 2016, and did not miss a game.

The Yellow Jackets’ first game against Bartram Trail in 2001 was moved to a Monday because of weather. Three years later St. Augustine didn’t play its first game of the season until Sept. 17 because of Hurricane Frances.

“We played Menendez on a Monday. We’ve played Bartram on a Monday and played games on Thursday because we have lost games in the past,” Holland said. “I remember one year we lost our first two games because of a rash of storms within 10 days of each other.”

In 2004, St. Augustine played in 12 straight weeks until falling in the state semifinals.

“We do have some people who are going to take some precautions,” Toblin said. “We have some people who are northern transplants who had to live through (Superstorm) Sandy who are getting out of Dodge as quick as they can. We will be affected, but canceling the game Friday will give people a chance to make every precaution.”

Tuesday night, Duval County Public Schools announced all its schools would play at 6 p.m. Thursday, a move that included Creekside’s contest at Paxon.

“I think we go ahead of the game, being flexible, proactive in the beginning,” Duval County Public Schools athletic director Tammie Talley told the Florida Times-Union. “I’m extremely impressed with the district. The superintendent, operations managers, region chiefs, chiefs of staff … people don’t understand what all goes into [a situation like this]. You’ve got to get driver’s [education] cars from the beach, get shelters ready, cots in gyms, make sure the water’s working. … Our district has really been rock stars in emergency planning.”

Tonight’s Games

Creekside at Paxon, 6 p.m.

Bishop Kenny at Nease, 6:30 p.m.

Menendez at Yulee, 7 p.m.

St. Joseph at Eagle’s View, 7 p.m.

Clay at Bartram Trail, 7:30 p.m.

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