Posted: 8:23 pm Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Palm Beach Gardens prepares for raucous crowd, wing-T at Vero Beach 

By Jeff Greer

After the next two weeks, Palm Beach Gardens (2-2) will officially be sick of the wing-T offense. With games at Vero Beach this week and at home against fourth-ranked Seminole Ridge next week, the Gators need to stop the old-school, multi-tiered running attack that both upcoming opponents use.

It doesn’t make it any easier that Vero has what Palm Beach Gardens coach Chris Davis calls one of the top five playing environments in Florida.

But Davis has a plan to prepare for the wing-T: Use a little bit of it in your own offense. At least, along with filling every possible gap on defense, of course.

“You try to make it part of your own identity a little bit,” Davis said after a short practice Thursday. “It helps if your kids know that they can do it themselves.

“[Defensively],you just have to be gap sound. You have to fill every gap. That’s the biggest thing.”

It won’t be easy. Vero (3-1) averages 22.5 points a game. Of the 13 touchdowns Vero has scored, nine of them have come on the ground. And three Vero runners have more than 25 attempts, making the assignments difficult for any defense.

“You have to study them and do your homework,” Davis said.

Part of Gardens’ preparation came from Mother Nature. With Vero’s environment — a loud, proud, red-clothed crowd packs the house for home games — Davis was hoping his players would be prepared for the loudness on the field. A windy week of practice helped them more than any lecture from a coach.

“We’ve been blessed; it’s been breezy out here,” Davis said. “It’s very hard to hear [at practice]. They’ve really had to focus … It sounds funny, but it’s been helpful.”

Another help is junior running back Alex Clark’s return to health from an ankle injury he suffered against Dwyer back on Sept. 11. Clark, along with newly-healthy receiver Robert Whitfield, gives Gardens’ struggling offense some weaponry. Off a bye week, the Gators need a good showing at Vero. They lost a heartbreaker to fellow district foe Treasure Coast, 6-0, back on Sept. 24. A loss to Vero means an 0-2 start in the district and lots of work to do.

Davis hopes Clark can provide a spark. The junior tailback had 103 yards and a touchdown while battling a groin injury against Palm Beach Lakes in the season opener.

In a game where possessions will be scarce and drives will eat up the clock, having an extra back like Clark will certainly help Roshard Burney, who has carried much of the rushing load with Clark hobbled.

“We’ve been really handcuffed and our production shows that,” Davis said. “Some guys make a big difference, and I’m excited to see [Clark and Whitfield] play tomorrow night.”

At a packed house in Vero and against a difficult-to-defend wing-T formation tomorrow night, Gardens needs some difference makers.