Ponte Vedra Turns Up Intensity, Turns Away Fleming Island

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Above: Ponte Vedra’s Andrew O’Dare spirits away another faceoff as a teammate shields the Golden Eagles’ Justin Szafranski. O’Dare won 15 of 19 faceoffs. Photo by Ray DiMonda. By Mike Zima, Correspondent Reid Smith scored nine goals—all in the first half—as Ponte Vedra overwhelmed Fleming Island 20-5 in a District 6 Semifinal at Creekside High School Tuesday night. Smith gave the Sharks early momentum by scoring three goals in the first 2:31, all three times driving from behind the goal to shoot from close range.  Smith was successful using a pick at X to find a defensive match-up to his liking, backing away from the goal briefly, and then charging the crease.  The junior scored five times in all on drives from X, once on an underhand shot after picking up a loose ball outside the crease, twice by sneaking from X to catch feeds in front of the goal, and once on a fast break after teammate Matt Keeler forced a turnover. “The last time we played them [a 16-7 Ponte Vedra victory in February], we went at them more from midfield,” explained Smith.  “This time, we did it from the attack.” By the time the Golden Eagles adjusted to Smith’s drives, the Delaware commit had scored eight goals and the Sharks led 9-1 three minutes into the second quarter.  Smith tallied only one more goal, but with the game essentially decided, he played sparingly in the second half. Faceoff specialist Andrew O’Dare was also instrumental to the Sharks’ fast start, winning 15 of 19 faceoffs.  O’Dare, a junior, added two goals. In contrast to their earlier game against Fleming Island when Ponte Vedra trailed 3-2 halfway through the first quarter before rallying for a comfortable victory, the Sharks came out Tuesday with emotion and resolve. “I have a lot of respect for the Fleming Island program, and after what they did to Maclay [an 11-5 Golden Eagles victory over the sixth-ranked Marauders last Friday], we had to come out focused,” said Sharks coach Tom West, who emphasized that the playoffs were the start of a new season where Ponte Vedra’s 17-0 regular season record meant nothing. The Golden Eagles showed a pulse midway through the second quarter when Cole Stark and Jack Hawley scored on consecutive possessions to draw Fleming Island within six goals.  The Sharks’ Ben Buchanan and O’Dare responded with goals seven seconds apart to quell any prospect of a comeback.  Ponte Vedra led 14-3 at halftime. Keeler, who led all players with three assists, and fellow junior Clay Welch had two goals apiece for the Sharks, who will meet the winner of Tuesday night’s other district semifinal between Creekside and Nease Thursday at Creekside. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Golden Eagles, who end their season at 8-8.  Senior middie Devan Marquis led Fleming Island with two goals and defenseman Andy Zima had a team-high five ground balls, while goaltender Ryan Kelly made 10 saves.