Posted: 10:53 pm Wednesday, September 30th, 2009
By Jason Lieser
One team had a hiccup last week, while the other continues to look for a permanent solution.
Glades Central QB L.J. Thomas will return to his starting spot against Clewiston Friday, a week after he and five other players were benched for what coach Jessie Hester called a “practice-related” infraction. Meanwhile, Pahokee will stick with junior Emanuel Perez against North Broward Prep, a team that went 10-1 last year and is 3-1 this season.
Hester has not commented publicly regarding the cause of last week’s punishment, but said Wednesday the players received the message and have been reinstated as starters after correcting the issue this week.
“Everything’s back to normal,” he said. “They definitely proved they learned their lesson. They all came back this week and worked harder than ever, like we anticipated. We’ve had a real good week of practice and we expect a real good game.”
Senior QB Alanda Shaw started against Royal Palm Beach last week and completed 14 of 20 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas entered the game in the fourth quarter and went 3 for 11 with an interception. Thomas, an all-area quarterback last year, has completed 49.3 percent of his attempts, totaling 757 yards with nine touchdown passes.
Hester said he heard secondhand that there was some grumbling in the community about his decision to bench key players, but he does not seem bothered by it.
“I’m not here to win 100 games or go undefeated,” he said. “I’m here to make sure these kids are mentally prepared for life. All the other stuff — I can deal with the backlash.
“Normally, most people just want those kids to play. They’re not thinking of the interests of the kid. They’re not involved in the school. We can’t concern ourselves with that as long as the coaches and administration are on the same page.”
To the north, Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson said he plans to Perez for the second straight week. He completed 8 of 16 passes for 111 yards with an interception and two touchdowns in the Blue Devils’ 41-0 win over Cardinal Newman last week. First-string quarterback De’Joshua Johnson is expected to start at wide receiver, but Thompson said he will move Johnson back to quarterback if necessary. Third-stringer Joe Eason is also a consideration.
“(Perez) is getting better, that’s the key,” Thompson said. “He’s making better decisions. Last week was a good test for him. He still has issues, but having Josh at wide receiver is better, at this point, than having him at quarterback, for the most part. I don’t mind having two quarterbacks. Things change on a daily basis.”
Each of the past two seasons, Thompson has started the year with one of his wide receivers at quarterback and hoped Perez would ultimately supplant them as the starter. It did not happen last year and Pahokee turned to Johnson when it felt the need to move Nu’Keese Richardson back to receiver.
Perez has the body and the arm strength to play, but has struggled when the game speeds up against better opponents. Look at the difference in his stats this season:
Vs. Inlet Grove and Cardinal Newman: 20/32 passing, 311 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT
Vs. Atlantic and Dwyer: 5/12 passing, 23 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs
Last year, Pahokee took advantage of its soft district schedule by letting Perez play against teams like John Carroll, Cardinal Newman and Melbourne Central Catholic. After the realignment, though, the Blue Devils are in a much tougher district and they might not be able to get away with liability at the quarterback position.
Pahokee (3-1) is off next week and plays Coral Springs Charter on Oct. 16, which looks like another game in which Perez would start. The last four games, though, are against Fort Lauderdale-Pine Crest, Palm Beach Lakes, Fort Lauderdale-University and Glades Central.
Johnson said he is happy to play quarterback if the team needs him there, but he injured his elbow and biceps during the Blue Devils’ loss to Dwyer. Thompson said he was unaware of the injury and thought Johnson looked fine throwing the ball in practice this week.
“I’m eager to play quarterback after my last game,” Johnson said, referring to his poor performance against Dwyer. “It bothered me a lot.
“I enjoy playing quarterback; we just had a few miscues. That doesn’t make me not want to play it anymore. I’m willing to help the team win any way I can.”