Posted: 12:24 pm Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Video: Palm Beach Gardens off to a running start, more thoughts from 54-14 win over Jupiter 

By Matt Porter

httpv://youtu.be/0GcD3Z3WGAs

Unlike others whose games went down to the wire, Palm Beach Gardens wrapped up its Friday night win over Jupiter with plenty of time to spare. As such, last night’s game story had everything fairly well laid-out: Gardens posted 305 yards on the ground in a 54-14 no-doubter, with Roshard Burney and Alex Clark accounting for 241 yards and 4 scores.

Burney and Clark get plenty of shine in the game story and the above video (and will be the subject of a story in Tuesday’s Post), so we’ll just touch on them here. They attacked Jupiter like they’ve hit every other team in Gardens’ first four games: with speed, power and great blocking for each other. Their line, which will a big part of Tuesday’s story, was outstanding, locking onto Warriors defenders like magnets and driving them off the ball. Pure run-game excellence from the Gators, who lead the county in rushing yards by a wide margin (full stats here).

Some other thoughts from Gardens–Jupiter:

Making them pay. Since its run game picks up chunks of yardage, doesn’t put the ball on the ground and has big-play capability, Gardens will win a lot of games if it can force turnovers. They did that Friday, scoring off three successive Jupiter turnovers and turning a 21-6 hole a 41-6 rout. If the Warriors had to climb a hill, Gardens turned it into Matterhorn.

Alex Clark and the Gators' run-heavy offense makes teams pay for their mistakes. Click for a gallery of game photos. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Alex Clark and the Gators' run-heavy offense makes teams pay for their mistakes. Click for a gallery of game photos. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

With 4:48 left in the first half, quarterback Tyler Cameron threw a screen pass into two onrushing linemen, caught the ball as it bounced back to him and fumbled it. Gardens’ Anthony ‘Squirt’ Hicks (6-1, 255) recovered at the Warriors’ 33. Four plays later, Burney was in the end zone to make it 28-6.

On the first drive of the second half, Cameron was sacked by a host of Gators. On the next play, the drive’s fifth, he was chased out of bounds by Gardens’ beastly lineman Avery Young. Before he stepped out, Cameron lofted it deep, where Gardens senior Gavin McClinton was waiting. Five plays later, Gardens quarterback J.P. Caruso hit senior Kyle Cameron for a 40-yard catch-and-run. Gators 35-6 with 7:23 left in the third.

The third cut was the quickest. Jupiter began the following drive at its own 20 after a touchback from Gardens sophomore kicker Stephen Olson (he had five). Gators linebacker Verrick Ponder drove back Jupiter running back Brent Boyd minus-2 yards. Cameron was stopped for no gain, then sacked for a loss of 2 by defensive end Julian Serrano. On fourth-and-14 from Jupiter’s 16, a punt was driven low and into Gardens’ line. Senior Peter Sylvain picked up the gift and carried it 10 yards to the house with a huge grin. Gardens 41-5 at 5:51 of the third.

What’s up with the Warriors? Wrote a lot about Gardens in the game story because, frankly, Jupiter didn’t show much positive. The Warriors are 1-3 (0-1 District 9-8A) and have a tough road to the playoffs (more on that below).

“We knew what the runs were, we just couldn’t stop them,” Jupiter coach Charlie Persson said. “They didn’t come as a surprise. Coach Davis always puts in a few new wrinkles. He had a couple new pass plays, a couple wrinkles off of that. He did a great job getting the kids ready. They obviously won every aspect of the game, and dominated us pretty much the whole game. We need to get in rhythm offensively. We haven’t been able to do that. It’s been a struggle. We finally got J.D. (Davis) back tonight, but we still have three offensive linemen out.”

The good: The Warriors took advantage of semi-suspect Gardens pass coverage for touchdown passes that went for 19 and 45 yards. Senior tight end Collier Logan (6-3, 225) is the team’s most reliable pass-catcher and caught seven balls for 84 yards, including a pair of 20-yard gains and a 19-yard touchdown. Senior wideout Charlie Giles was open for a 45-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter. The Warriors play fairly clean (four penalties for 40 yards, the worst of which a second-quarter holding call that negated a big carry by Cameron).

Gardens made it tough for Jupiter's Tyler Cameron, sacking him seven times. Click for a photo gallery. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Gardens made it tough for Jupiter's Tyler Cameron, sacking him seven times. Click for a photo gallery. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

The bad: With Gardens’ defensive line dominating Jupiter’s offensive line, the Warriors couldn’t work the pass. Cameron (11-23, 168 yards) spent all night trying to create, showing off a superb ability to extend plays. He got off a few deep throws, but at least two sure touchdowns were dropped. Cameron was sacked seven times and finished with 13 carries for negative-2 yards. As a team, the Warriors carried 26 times for 70 yards, which included nine negative run plays.

Cameron fought all he could. He began Jupiter’s last drive of the first half with a 19-yard carry. On the next play, he broke out of a sack and flung one downfield to a wide-open receiver … who dropped the ball. He hit Logan for a 12-yard pickup, then missed a receiver, then picked up five yards with a short pass across midfield. On third-and-5, from the 43, Cameron used his bull-strong, 6-3, 225-pound frame to fend off a sack attempt by Young (6-6, 286). They struggled, but Young finally brought him down for a loss of seven.

Jupiter punt. As Young jumped up to block the kick, Cameron shoved him down. As the coverage team raced downfield, Cameron helped Young back to his feet.

No sleep ’til Loxahatchee. Gardens is 3-1, and 1-0 in a four-team District 9-8A. Seminole Ridge, with a blowout win over Wellington, is also 1-0. It’s too early to call the race, but it appears likely Gardens’ Oct. 21 game at Seminole Ridge could decide the district champion.

That game looks like a great one. From what I’ve seen of both teams, Gardens will be able to run the ball on Ridge, and the Hawks’ passing game will give the Gators fits (no one looks like they can cover 6-2, 180-pound Darian Williams). I’d give the Hawks a slight — slight! — advantage right now because I haven’t seen Gardens defend the pass consistently, but Ridge was inconsistent all over when I saw them against Dwyer. If Gardens runs all night and forces a few turnovers, it’s their ballgame.

A hundred possibilities there, not to mention what could happen Nov. 4. Could be total district upheaval if Wellington rode in and spoiled Gardens’ party, or Jupiter defended its home turf against Hawks. If both teams pulled off the upset, we’re looking at a messy (and fun) last week of the season.

For now, both the Hawks and Gators are the favorites to grab the playoff spots in 9-8A, and a district title is a toss-up.

Parting shot: I’d put the Gators’ run game up there with any other unit I’ve seen this season. The other top groups in the area, based on the seven games I’ve seen: Glades Central’s defense, Dwyer’s defense, American Heritage’s offense and Palm Beach Central’s offense.