ST. JOHNS — Darrell Sutherland has experienced the warmth and excitement of starting a football season so often at Bartram Trail High School that the suddenness of late August games offers few surprises.
That was evident again on Friday night at Bears Stadium as Bartram Trail rolled from the first whistle to beat Riverside 40-0 in a preseason game. The Bears scored on a recovered defensive fumble for a touchdown on the game’s first play and a six-goal pick three plays later en route to a 26-0 halftime lead.
“One of the joys of coaching high school football is that it’s a new group of guys every year,” Sutherland said. “They ride bikes, and 14-year-olds come in and leave at 18. It’s fun when they come in and we see what we have.
A 30-year veteran of coaching, including 23 seasons at the helm of the Bears, Sutherland has won 65% of his games and made the playoffs 18 times. For the first time, he has the son of a former player on his team, rookie Joel Raggins, whose father was a running back in the early 2000s.
Friday’s foe Riverside brought the opposite perspective with longtime Generals first head coach and assistant Antwan Nichols, who took over this season for OJ Small after seven straight playoff appearances.
Here are three takeaways, a far different result than where these teams met this time last year.
The defense takes the game
On the first play from scrimmage, Generals QB Christopher Kendrick watched the snap sail over his head and roll into the end zone from the 20-yard line. Junior linebacker Caden Baldwin recovered the fumble among a trio of teammates for the opening touchdown.
Three plays later, Sergio Lanzas caught Kendrick’s pass through the middle and sprinted 27 yards down the right touchline for a 14-0 lead with just 1:30 remaining and before Bartram’s attack does not touch the ball.
The Bears did not allow a Riverside first down in the first half. Riverside gained 40 yards on the night, punting eight times.
Another QB star
Bartram Trail junior quarterback Riley Trujillo is attracting recruiting attention as the top national rookie in his promotion due to his height (6-foot-4) and experience on Sutherland’s fast offense. The Bears’ legacy of star quarterbacks is stellar, including Kyle Parker, Nathan Peterman, Joey Gatewood and Riley Smith – all of whom played at the Division I level.
Trujillo has 21 verbal offers, according to 247Sports. A back injury kept him from camping at colleges until late summer.
Trujillo passed for 76 yards and ran for 56 before leaving midway through the third quarter. Senior backup Brody Tillotson played during the latter stages of the third quarter when rookie Jaden Weatherly, the younger brother of former Bear and current Duke RB rookie Eric Weatherly, came in and scored for a touchdown.
A difficult start
Bartram Trail opens the season at home next Friday against St. Johns County foe Ponte Vedra, against whom he holds a three-game winning streak, including a 26-24 decision last season. This home date precedes three straight road games – back-to-back trips to Daytona Beach to face Seabreeze and Mainland, followed by a Thursday night trip to Lincoln on Sept. 15.
Riverside, 10-2 last season, hosts Westside next week. The Generals lost star defensive back Jaheim Singletary to the University of Georgia, but the defensive front is solid behind senior Zaire Moody and junior De’Avery Weeks to give Riverside another tough unit this season.