Posted: 2:06 am Sunday, September 11th, 2011
By Jeff Greer
PALM BEACH GARDENS — There was a sense of urgency about Dwyer on Saturday night.
After losing their first two games of the season (yes, one was an exhibition), the Panthers came into Saturday’s annual rivalry game against Jupiter hungry for some results. And while the offense still showed some holes and special teams got mixed results, the defense looked like it was in mid-season form in a 32-8 win.
Dwyer (1-1) got into the backfield early and often to disrupt Jupiter’s heralded quarterback Tyler Cameron. The defense recorded five sacks, six tackles for loss and five turnovers. Jupiter totaled 88 yards of offense and 11 first downs, but most of the fresh sets of downs came late in the game.
In other words, Dwyer’s D got after it. D-tackle Mike Minns had two sacks, two tackles for loss and a recovered fumble. Jelani Jean-Louis, Malik Brown and Shawn Boone each picked up sacks of their own. Oh, and Julian Whigham got two interceptions and DeAndre Bozeman got one. For those counting at home, that’s four interceptions in two games for Whigham, a Syracuse commit.
“Those coaches really know what they’re doing,” Dwyer quarterback Faton Bauta said of his team’s defensive coaching staff. “(Defensive coordinator Bobby) Sifrit is well prepared every week coming in. He knows exactly what the other team is doing. They work hard, too, and the scout team — we practice hard together. The offense and defense make each other better.”
A weight has been lifted. I wrote about it in my game report on Saturday night, but I want to expand on how much the win meant to Bauta, Dwyer’s starting quarterback who transferred from Brooklyn in the offseason. The senior didn’t have a perfect game by any stretch. He’d be the first to admit it. (In fact, he did. He said he wasn’t happy with how he played.) But he helped his team win, and he was happy about that.
“Faton’s a competitor,” Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said. “He works harder than anybody and he puts too much pressure on himself. He wants to win every time.”
Bauta said, “A win is always good. I’m glad we got it. Now we got the ball rolling. We know we’re gonna continue to win and continue to succeed. We have a lot of things to clean up. Those two losses, yeah, the pressure was starting to build up a little bit, but still, I block it out and just focus on what I have to do. That’s what I do, just focus on getting better with my team.”
Bauta was 6-of-13 for 77 yards. He ran for a touchdown and passed for two. He didn’t really make any glaring mistakes, but he still appeared a bit skittish in the pocket. As the season wears on, that will improve and he won’t miss open receivers or panic as much as he has thus far. You have to wonder how much of that is affected by playing Miami Central and Glades Central in his first two games in South Florida. That’s like playing the New York Jets defense two weeks in a row to start your season.
Despite the tough start, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound quarterback said the change of scenery has taken some getting used to, and he’s starting to feel more and more confident each week.
“It’s a football state,” Bauta said. “Speed is definitely faster. I’ve noticed that. I got used to it pretty quickly. I know I’m not the fastest guy, but mentally, the speed of the game is good for me. These kids love coming out and playing. It’s a lifestyle down here.”
A good barometer for Jupiter. Jupiter coach Charlie Persson talked about his team’s enthusiasm (again, in my game story) and said he was proud that his team hung around against a talented Dwyer team. He also nodded to his defense, which limited Dwyer’s fully armed offensive attack to 143 yards passing and 10 first downs. Jupiter got two sacks and forced a turnover, but the defense was called on too much and Dwyer’s running game hustled out 181 yards.
“We played very well on defense,” Persson said. “This is a good test for us really to get ready for district play. We needed this game. It’s a good game for us. We solved one problem, we solved the effort problem. Now we have to solve the communication problem.”
That’s fair — Cameron seemed to be caught off-guard on a few snaps, including one he took right in the gut before realizing the play was broken and running for his life. The Warriors fumbled four times and lost two, and that’s a big part of Persson was talking about.
Penalties and special teams concern Daniels. Dwyer gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown against Glades Central and a punt return for a score against Miami Central. On Saturday, the Panthers had two extra points blocked and muffed a third extra point with a bad snap. Not good. Granted, it didn’t really matter, but that kind of problem could rear its ugly head at the wrong time.
“That’s just inexcusable,” Daniels said. “We’ll have to look at film. Somebody’s obviously giving up their inside gaps, which is inexcusable. We’ll make changes on that.”
(I should mention Johnnie Dixon’s 36-yard punt return for a score that pushed Dwyer’s lead to 19-0. That was a positive. So were Bobby Puyol’s six touchbacks. Plus, Jupiter started three drives inside its own 20.)
But then there were the penalties. Dwyer got so many, I ran out of space on my stat sheet for them. The Panthers finished with 18 for 141 yards. On Jupiter’s only scoring drive, I counted four, and a fifth one came on the point after.
“You tell me,” Daniels said. “I don’t know what happened there. We have to be more disciplined. The first two games we had three penalties and now we come out and have 25 penalties. I don’t know what we did wrong since Monday. Then again, we had three penalties and got our asses kicked in the first two games and then we come out on top here. I don’t know what to tell you.”