ST. PETERSBURG — When St. Petersburg took the field against Chamberlain on Friday night in a preseason matchup, it did so in the wake of some off-season adversity.
The team had lost 33 of its players from 2018, including 11 who chose to transfer. The Chiefs handed the host Green Devils a 42-0 drubbing, but St. Pete coach Joe Fabrizio seemed to take it in stride.
“We’re a young team,” he said.
That youth and implied inexperience were on display throughout the three quarters that the varsity teams were on the field. The Green Devils struggled to move the ball, as most of their drives ended with a three-and-out.
On the other side, Chamberlain’s offense clicked for most of the night, a few fumbles and missed opportunities notwithstanding. The Chiefs took a 14-0 lead when Jamal Jones intercepted a Bradford Saxon pass and returned it 25 yards into the end zone. Running back Khaleef Stewart, who carried 11 times for 49 yards, had TD runs of 1 and 21 yards, which helped propel Chamberlain to a 21-0 lead at halftime.
Quarterback Bruce Jackson was 14-of-19 for 152 yards in the first half. He added two touchdowns to that impressive stat line in the third quarter. The first was a 40-yard completion for a TD to Kaleb Long with 10:03 to go in the period. A few minutes later, he connected with Keveyon Marbra for 34 yards and a 35-0 lead. The JV teams took to the field in the fourth quarter, and a 2-yard run by Chamberlain accounted for the final score.
Long had four catches for 101 yards and nearly had a second score when he let Jackson’s long pass over the middle slip through his hands at the goal line. Sophomore Desman Hearns reeled in four passes for 40 yards. Jackson finished the night with 18 completions, two TDs and 264 yards on 24 attempts.
Chiefs coach Jason Lane complimented Long and Jackson after the game, while also noting their potential for improvement.
“Kaleb is one of the best receivers in the state,” said Lane. “And he can be more consistent.”
He echoed that sentiment regarding Jackson. “Bruce has accuracy and a live arm, but he needs consistency.”
Keeping up with that kind of talent was a tall order for the Green Devils. Nevertheless, Fabrizio said he appreciated his team’s effort.
“We knew Chamberlain was going to be good,” he said. “The kids competed the entire game.”