Posted: 5:54 pm Monday, October 10th, 2011

Midway through the season, Seminole Ridge starts to roll 

By Jeff Greer

In late March, Seminole Ridge coach Matt Dickmann experienced a wide range of thoughts. The Palm Beach County football schedules had just been released, and Dickmann’s Hawks — fresh off a run to the Class 6A regional finals — had a loaded schedule.

Matt Dickmann

Dwyer and Glades Central headlined a 10-game slate that featured five playoff teams  from 2010 and schools that had won a combined 14 state championships. Now, midway through the 2011 campaign, Dickmann feels a lot better about his team, which is 3-2.

Sure, it helped that Glades Central, the best team in the area, canceled its game with Seminole Ridge, and that Pahokee, the owner of six state crowns, is struggling again. But it’s also has helped that his team’s fellow running backs have started to complement star running back Gary Holmes on offense, and the defense is as good as any in the county.

After losing back-to-back games to undefeated Park Vista and always-tough Dwyer to fall to 1-2, Seminole Ridge has won two in a row. In those wins (over Wellington and Pahokee), Ridge has outscored its opponents 98-0 and run for 497 yards. Quarterback Antwan Washington has steadily improved, and wing back Elie Turene, who was expected to have a breakout year opposite Holmes, is finally healthy and producing again.

“We’ve gotten on a little bit of a roll,” Dickmann said. “We’ve eliminated some of the early mistakes we were making and more and more guys are playing better and doing their jobs.”

Those early-season miscues were painful. Holmes lost two fumbles, including one near the goal line, in a tightly contested 26-14 loss to Dwyer. A week earlier, a botched extra point ended up killing Ridge in a 14-13 loss to Park Vista. Even in the season opener, a 21-6 victory over Palm Beach Central, Dickmann was concerned about the mistakes his team was making.

But that all feels so long ago now that the Hawks are winning like observers expected, and they enter a critical stretch of their schedule as the weather (hopefully) cools and games get more important.

Ridge meets John I. Leonard this week in a clash of contrasting styles. Leonard is the No. 1 passing big school in the area but has struggled defensively, while Ridge prefers to run the ball and boasts a defense that ranks third in the area. Dickmann said his team spent a lot of time studying spread offenses in the offseason, and that preparation will help against yet another tough non-district opponent.

Ultimately, this game is most important for its timing: Ridge plays district rival Palm Beach Gardens next week in a contest that will likely decide who gets to host a first-round playoff game in November. In other words, that difficult schedule is helping the Hawks get their pads dirty before their biggest game.

“This year, we hadn’t done anything with a young team and I thought we were ranked too high in some places,” Dickmann said. “It doesn’t matter — you have to do it on the field. More than anything, our focus is on winning the district and getting better this week. We’ve had two close losses against two very good teams, but we’re right where we need to be. We’ve grown.”