Posted: 1:02 am Saturday, September 5th, 2009
By Jason Lieser
No. 1 Pahokee looked awful in the first half, but got a big game from Chris Dunkley and a solid defensive performance to beat Atlantic 13-6 in the opener at Anquan Boldin Stadium. Here are five points worth pondering about that game:
1. Dennis Hall is one of the best possession receivers in the area. Hall (5-11, 175) does not dazzle with his speed and athleticism like Dunkley, De’Joshua Johnson or Fred Pickett, but he might turn out to be as important as any receiver Pahokee has. Hall gets open and rarely drops a pass. He was the Blue Devils’ safety valve Friday and led the team with six catches (49 yards). Coach Blaze Thompson called him “Mr. Dependable.” Yes, Dunkley and Pickett are the big play threats, but this guy extends drives with his reliability.
2. Speaking of wide receivers, where were Atlantic’s? Eagles QB Mark Leal was average Friday, but his receivers were almost nonexistent. WR James Louis had one catch for 5 yards, though Leal completely overthrew him when he was wide open down the right sideline late in the first quarter. Pahokee keyed on Louis, but great receivers rise above that (i.e. Chris Dunkley’s 148 yards and two touchdown catches). Leal favored Quadarias Mireles, a transfer from John I. Leonard, and Mireles led the team with five catches for 49 yards, but Mireles dropped at least catchable passes.
3. What was Pahokee thinking in starting Emanuel Perez at quarterback? I don’t know if that decision was a product of underestimating Atlantic’s defense or simply misjudgment — or both. Perez has a strong arm, but he looked totally bewildered in the first two possessions before the Blue Devils relented and turned to Johnson. Those two possessions produced a net loss of 18 yards. His second pass of the game was basically a punt into a crowd of Atlantic defenders. Luckily it fell for an incomplete pass. Johnson, like Nu’Keese Richardson last year, is not an ideal quarterback, but the offense was markedly better with him running the show instead of Perez. I’m not trying to beat up Perez, but he is a long way from taking the starting job.
4. Atlantic’s linebackers looked good, led by Eluzies Vil. Vil’s name came up several times last year. He and the rest of the Eagles linebacker corps got good pressure on Johnson and did not miss many tackles. They could have done a better job closing off the outside, but this group will be one of the area’s best this season.
5. The Blue Devils’ rushing attack is unconventional but effective. Everyone thinks of wide receivers when they think of Pahokee — and you should. But the Blue Devils rushed for 4.6 yards per carry with three running backs plus Johnson. That’s a lot different than last year, when the Blue Devils rode Vincent Smith for 1,518 yards in the regular season, but it worked. The most effective of the three was Pickett, who said he used to play running back as a kid and liked the way Pahokee used him Friday. Pickett amassed 85 yards on just seven carries. He appeared to have a 20-yard touchdown run with 4:58 left in the second quarter, but the referee ruled Pickett fumbled at the Atlantic 1-yard line and the Eagles recovered it for a touchback. Junior Wardell Coleman had a workmanlike game with 34 yards on seven carries and Johnson had three runs of at least 8 yards.