By Mike Zima, Correspondent
St. Augustine’s Nick Lawlor and Clay Shaw dominated as the Yellow Jackets improved to 9-1 with a 14-9 victory at Fleming Island Tuesday night.
The Yellow Jackets, having never beaten Fleming Island, opened the game with a sense of urgency, winning faceoffs, scooping up loose balls, running their offensive schemes at a brisk pace, and pressing on defense. The visitors scored six unanswered goals in the first eight minutes, a gap the Golden Eagles could never quite close.
“Our goal coming into the season was to compete with Fleming Island and the St. John’s County schools,” said St. Augustine coach John Baker.
Lawlor, a 5’3” firebrand who splits time at middie and attack, snared nine ground balls and consistently beat the Golden Eagle trying to guard him in man-to-man defense as he drove to the goal, and then flipped a pass to a teammate for an uncontested shot when that teammate’s man slid over to stop him. Stefan Carey, who led all players with five goals, and Jacob Jones, who scored four time, were the beneficiaries of Lawlor’s five assists.
“He is a great athlete, and a truly unselfish player,” Baker said of Lawlor.
Meanwhile, Shaw permitted St. Augustine to dominate possession time, particularly in the first half. The sophomore won 11 of 17 faceoffs and grabbed a game-high 12 ground balls, providing the Yellow Jackets with constant scoring opportunities.
The Golden Eagles did not fold despite their deficit, cutting the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 6-4 with a four goals spanning the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second. Freshman Eric Dobson got the hosts on the board with a drive from the right wing, while attack Patrick Schreiber capped the run by coming from behind the goal and sneaking a low roller past Yellow Jackets goaltender Seth Ulrickson.
But every time Fleming Island threatened to tie the game, Lawlor made a play to keep them down. With the Golden Eagles in possession late in the second quarter trailing 7-5, the junior led a fast break and found Josh Peterson for a goal. Then, just seven seconds before halftime, he threaded a pass to Peterson for an easy putaway to give St. Augustine a 9-5 lead and a huge confidence boost. When the Golden Eagles closed to within 11-9 on a long-range laser by Jack Hawley that trickled off of Ulrickson’s stick and leg into the goal, Lawlor made a steal and led another fast break that resulted in a Taylor Welu goal, giving the Yellow Jackets much-needed breathing room.
“Aside from Ponte Vedra, we have not faced anyone with that kind of team speed,” said Fleming Island coach John Hawley. “That and they are the only deep zone-riding team on the clear that we have faced—those were the two things that tricked us up a little bit.”
Kirby Gracia and Jack Hawley had had tricks for the hosts, who played back-up goaltender Demitri Jones in the crease because it was Senior Night. Jones came through with eight saves. The Golden Eagles, now 3-5, travel to Gainesville Oak Hall Friday night for a non-district game.
St. Augustine returns home to entertain St. John’s County’s Creekside High School Thursday night.