Posted: 2:21 pm Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Park Vista undefeated start thanks to confident sophomore Qwad Martin, strong defense 

By Matt Porter

It’s mostly unfair to compare incoming sophomores to graduated seniors. Especially when the senior in question, Tre Mason, was one of the county’s most electrifying players in recent memory.

Sophomore Qwad Martin has led Park Vista to a 5-0 start. Click the photo for more Cobras photos. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Sophomore Qwad Martin has led Park Vista to a 5-0 start. Click the photo for more Cobras photos. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Park Vista’s Qwad Martin doesn’t mind. He welcomes comparisons to Mason, who led Palm Beach County large schools in rushing yards and touchdowns in his final two seasons at Park Vista and is now turning heads at Auburn.

When Martin transferred from Santaluces, he asked for Mason’s No. 10 jersey. He wanted Mason’s role as the main playmaker. He was supposed to earn playing time gradually, earning reps as a tailback and quarterback in the Cobras’ newly installed spread offense. He’s now running the show, and Park Vista (5-0) has an excellent chance of making the playoffs.

“We thought we were going to work him in slow,” head coach Brian Dodds said. “We go as the team goes. The team decided they wanted Qwad.”

From the start, teammates responded to Martin’s calm confidence in the huddle, Dodds said. While he has size similar to Mason (5-10, 190), Dodds said Martin’s demeanor is similar to that of former Cobras quarterback Eddie Sullivan, who graduated from Boca Raton and is now at Marshall.

“Less vocal, but he’s just as much of a leader,” Dodds said. “He’s relaxed and laid back. The team responds to him.”

The Cobras look to Martin to create plays in the pocket and take off when he has the opportunity. Martin, who has 412 yards and four touchdowns on 65 carries, hands off to juniors Adrian Cerrato, Lekraig Bens and Nelyja Floyd.

He is still learning how to read defenses, a skill that comes with game experience. He’s completed 22 of 46 passes for 381 yards and five TDs, but has thrown three interceptions. The Cobras sometimes bring in pass-first senior Shane Bussey, who has been efficient (7-of-12).

Park Vista’s defense deserves has had just as much of a hand in the Cobras’ hot start. It has allowed the fewest points (40) of any team in the area. That’s impressive given a player it was counting on, senior middle linebacker Silmore Dallaway, transferred to American Heritage before the season.

Dodds credited defensive coordinator Tom Ledbetter, defensive line coach Eric Luchina and defensive backs coach Travis Klabon, who was junior varsity coach last year.

“They’ve done a great job putting kids in the right spots,” Dodds said.

The Cobras’ best defensive prospect is senior cornerback Tim Haynes, who has drawn most of the tough assignments this year. Spotted up last week against Palm Beach Central senior receiver Angelo Jean-Louis, a Miami commit, Haynes held Jean-Louis to zero catches.

Two other Park Vista notes: Senior lineman Nathan Kengle (6-3, 260) has been quiet due to a left shoulder injury suffered at a camp this summer. He spent much of the Palm Beach Central game on the sidelines wearing an ice bag. Dodds said Kengle is “borderline” for this week’s game against Wellington. He’s expected to return to full duty next week for the Cobras’ critical district game against Boca Raton. … Mason, who was named SEC freshman of the week after breaking a 97-yard kickoff return in his first college game, will be the subject of a Jason Lieser story in tomorrow’s Post. His Tigers face the Florida Gators on ESPN at 7 p.m. Saturday.