Posted: 12:17 am Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Post-game thoughts on Dwyer’s 14-0 win over Atlantic 

By Matt Porter

Dwyer–Atlantic, Oct. 21, 2011: a game that was light on points and heavy on playoff meaning. Here’s a few rapid-fire offerings from Delray Beach …

The overview: Dwyer’s defense held high-flying Atlantic to just 101 yards of total offense and zero points, staying perfect in District 13-7A and making Atlantic’s next two district games much more critical. Read the game story here.  

Atlantic held Dwyer scoreless until the fourth quarter, but the Eagles couldn't get on the board. Click for more game photos. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Atlantic held Dwyer scoreless until the fourth quarter, but the Eagles couldn't get on the board. Click for more game photos. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Dwyer’s dominant D. Dwyer’s defense is one of the most legitimate units in the county, and since I didn’t get a lot of space to do it in the game story, let’s give them credit here: The line is stout, with senior Mike Minns playing strong tackle and junior Malik Brown (two sacks) coming off the strong edge, with junior Ted Taylor slicing in from the weak side edge and sophomore Mark Kelly busting through gaps from the other tackle spot. They’ve been playing so well, 6-7 senior Patrick Miller has been exclusively an offensive player in recent weeks. 

The Panthers’ linebackers have come on strong, especially senior Gage Batten, who was slowed by an offseason ankle injury but is destroying assignments right now. Junior Evan Harvey is versatile and productive. Sophomore Shawn Boone has moved up from safety to outside linebacker, and dropped Atlantic QB A.J. Puente for a 13-yard loss on the drive that followed Dwyer’s first touchdown. 

The secondary is shining. Free safety Julian Whigham controls the middle, talented receiver Clint Stephens chips in at safety, and the cornerbacks, juniors Deandre Bozeman and Jonathan Moxey, have been lock-down since giving up big plays in Dwyer’s season-opening loss to Glades Central.

“Bozeman’s a hell of a player, and so is Moxey,” Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said. “The one deep ball [Atlantic] had a chance to complete, Bozeman picked off in the end zone. That was big. We gave up some hitches, but they came up and made tackles. And Julian had a nice pass breakup on the last deep ball they had.

“We left a lot of points out there, with fumbles and turnovers and that pick early. If we could have got points in those situations, we could have rested in the last 7, 8 minutes of the game.” 

Powerful Panthers. Watching the game, former Dwyer star Jacoby Brissett couldn’t have been too impressed. The Florida Gators quarterback, taking in his alma mater’s game on his bye week, saw the Panthers call run play after run play and complete six of 11 pass attempts. 

“I think if Jacoby was running that offense, he would have thrown his helmet down and walked off the field,” Daniels joked.

Got the job done, though. They earned 18 first downs, all but three of them on the ground. 

Brissett’s successor, Faton Bauta, doesn’t have the same arm, but he’s just as tough to handle on the ground. Bauta showed some nice cuts in traffic, especially on his 13-yard sneak that put Dwyer up 14-0. His 76 yards on 16 carries were aided by outstanding work from his line, which blocked to Atlantic’s second level with regularity. That lack of push was a vital part of Dwyer’s loss to Glades Central. 

Matt McMahon was called on for straight-ahead runs, while Cortney Lowery cut outside the tackles. This is inaccurate, but it felt like Dwyer was second-and-4 on every drive. This was a breakout game for senior fullback Jelani Jean-Louis, who plowed through several different Atlantic linebackers. 

During the week, Atlantic coach Chris Bean pointed to the trenches as the area where the game would be won and lost. He called it. 

Eagles grounded. Like everyone else this season, Dwyer had trouble with Eagles sophomore Adly Enoicy (5 catches, 55 yards), who simply out-heighted the coverage on a few plays and made some shifty after-catch moves for a 6-5, 210-pounder. With a representative from FAU in attendance, the Panthers held Owls commit Chad Ward (2 catches, 17 yards) in check. Puente didn’t have much time to work. 

Here’s Atlantic’s drive breakdown: 

3 plays – punt
10 plays – INT (on 2nd-and-goal from DWY 13)
3 plays – punt (Dwyer fumble on punt, ATL recovery)
6 plays – missed FG
9 plays – punt (25 penalty yards on one play made it 1st-and-35)
3 plays – punt
3 plays – punt
5 plays – turnover on downs 

This from an offense that put up a county-high 70 points in their game Spanish River. Because the ‘O’ sputtered, the Eagles’ ‘D’ stayed on the field for long stretches. That led to Atlantic coach Chris Bean subbing in offense-first players for tired defensive teammates. 

Dwyer’s drive chart: 

7 plays – INT (on third-and-12 from ATL 29)
18 plays – blocked FG (27-yard attempt)
11 plays – lost fumble (at ATL 28)
12 plays – TD (helped by ATL fumble on punt; see below)
3 plays – TD 
4 plays – turnover on downs
3 plays – kneel out clock

“I thought we did OK defensively,” Bean said. “I thought we held up well. … When we get into the red zone, we have to capitalize. There’s some things we didn’t take advantage of, and it hurt us. Because, if we go up, we force them to throw a little bit more, and play into our hands. When they’re pounding the football, it’s a little rough.”

The “big one.” That’s what Bean called one critical mistake near the beginning of the fourth quarter. The scenario: 

Dwyer took over in a scoreless ballgame with 1:40 left in the third. A five-play drive stalls after two holding penalties and a third-down pass breakup by Atlantic senior Gerard Fulton. Fourth-and-24 from Dwyer’s 34, Bobby Puyol back to punt. The punt is up, and is shorter than Atlantic expected. 

Eagles junior Trinity Fordham, running toward his returners with his back to the ball, doesn’t realize what’s about to happen. The pair of returners haven’t run toward the ball, alerting him that the punt is about to fall short. The ball hits Fordham in the heel, and Dwyer recovers at the Eagles’ 34. 

Dwyer’s offense, which called one pass play in the second half, wastes no time. Running off the weak side, Bauta keeps for 5, then 7, Lowery gains 7, 10, and 5 yards, and Bauta dives into the end zone for the game’s first points. 

“The punt returners have to warn the blockers, even if it’s short. The punt returner has to run to the ball,” Bean said. “But, you know. Mental mistakes.

“Hopefully we’ll see them again, so we can correct our problems and play better football.”

A repeat performance? So, 2009. Dwyer loses first game, to Glades Central, goes onto win state title. 2010, Dwyer loses first game, to Cleveland-Glenville on ESPN, rolls unbeaten to the state semifinals. This season, Dwyer loses first game, to Glades Central on ESPN, has rattled off six in a row. 

It’s early. Have to bring it up, though: Does Dwyer have enough to match the last couple seasons? They’re hearing the same things they did last season – they’re not as good as they were last year – and that could be true. Right now, I don’t think Dwyer’s offense has enough diversity to carry it all the way, but the power run game kills clock and the defense forces turnovers. It’ll be a grind, but they’re in the driver’s seat for a district title.

“I don’t know about that,” Daniels said. “We’ve still got Lake Worth and Royal Palm on the schedule. It’s a tough district, but we’re right where we want to be.” 

Atlantic has the same district teams, in reverse order. “We’re not out of it yet. It’s a rugged path, though,” Bean said. 

You have to put up next week’s paycheck on it: How far do Atlantic and Dwyer advance this season? 

Parting shots: Can’t wait to see what Royal Palm Beach, still unbeaten in the district after a 40-27 win over Lake Worth, can do against Atlantic next week and Dwyer the week after. Atlantic needs to win its next two district games, because it certainly seems like Dwyer will.

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