Posted: 4:51 pm Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Playoff Primer 2011: Astronaut stands as Glades Central’s first obstacle in title run 

By Jeff Greer

There are 16 playoff games on Friday involving teams from our area. In the buildup to the games, we’ll break down every matchup.

The playoffs are back in Belle Glade, and the Glades Central Raiders are the talk of the town. There’s no question this team has serious talent and the ability to make a state-title run. The Raiders just can’t let themselves get tripped up by mental mistakes, off-the-field issues or coaching miscues. The senior class at Glades Central was built to withstand the heavy expectations that come with the maroon and gold, but this is the seniors’ last chance. Can they get over the hump and deliver Central’s first state title since 2006?

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. General admission is $8; reserved seating is $9.

TITUSVILLE-ASTRONAUT AT GLADES CENTRAL

TITUSVILLE-ASTRONAUT
Record: 8-2
How they qualified: Runner-up of District 13-5A.
Average points per game: 21.7.
Average points allowed per game: 12.7
Offensive yardage totals: N/A.
Common opponents with Glades Central: Defeated Jensen Beach 29-0. Glades Central beat Jensen Beach 63-7.

GLADES CENTRAL
Record: 10-0
How they qualified: Winner of District 14-5A.
Average points per game: 44.7.
Average points allowed per game: 6.7.
Offensive yardage totals: 142.7 rush, 152.8 pass per game.
Offensive stars: WR/RB/KR/PR/CB Will Likely (519 receiving yards, 554 rushing yards, 17 TDs, 5 INTs), WR Jaime Wilson (605 receiving yards, 17 TDs), QB Tanner Redish (61.3% completion, 23 TDs, 7 INTs).
Defensive stars: LB Jatavis Brown, LB Dominique Gibson, LB Don’Kevious Johnson, S Crevon LeBlanc, CB John Brockman
Common opponents with Astronaut: Beat Jensen Beach 63-7. Astronaut topped Jensen Beach 29-0.

Astronaut isn’t going to blow anybody away. This isn’t a team built to rout. But what Astronaut does well is simple: It controls the clock and plays very good defense. Just look at the numbers. But that style of play is dangerous against a team like Glades Central, which is built to score in bunches. To beat the Raiders, teams have to contain big plays for 48 minutes. Not 10 minutes. Not 20. Not 30. Forty-eight minutes. And that is virtually impossible at the high school level.

Which brings me to my next point: Glades Central talks an awful lot about Miami Norland, which the Raiders would play in the regional final in December if both teams win their first two games. That’s dangerous. But in fairness to the Raiders, the last few weeks have shown that they aren’t taking teams lightly. They’ve outscored their opponents 203-14 in that span, never even coming close to struggling. William Likely has had a breakout year on offense after starring as a cornerback as a freshman and sophomore. Now he’s added electrifying kick and punt returns and a dual-threat on offense to his repertoire. He can run and he can catch passes. He’s the X-factor for the entire postseason. No one has stopped him yet.

The other X-factors are significant, but they can be overcome. Quarterback Tanner Redish got off to a slow start this year, but he’s been fantastic late in the season for Glades Central. Sure, he misses throws. Sometimes he struggles with the speed that offensive coordinator Reidel Anthony wants to play with. But Redish has done a great job of getting the ball to the right people at the right time. His playoff experience at Glades Day (two state titles in two years as a starter) should help, even if it was on a much smaller scale. And the other factor is the offensive line. Can Glades Central’s hogs give Redish enough time to look down field and hit his playmakers? Against faster and tougher defenses, that will be a challenge.

A lot is riding on this postseason. Yes, it’s only coach Roosevelt Blackmon’s first year, but these seniors have been expected to win a state title since they were freshmen. This is it. Can they keep playing lights-out football and do it?