Posted: 7:18 pm Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Playoff Primer 2011: Revamped Royal Palm Beach takes on Northeast’s talented air attack 

By Matt Porter

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 area’s best comeback story travels south for a playoff game they didn’t expect. Royal Palm Beach was 1-9 last year and rife with infighting and indifference. (Hard to tell which one’s worse.) That changed after coach Willie Bueno took over. Bueno, who won state championships at American Heritage and Glades Central, wanted to get his team to care about their school again. According to the players, they do.

The by-product of that caring: a season that started 7-1 before two tough end-of-season games against Dwyer and Seminole Ridge, a monster season from running back Tremane McCullough, and the emergence of several other players. The Wildcats aren’t a big team, but they compete from snap to whistle.

They open the playoffs against a team that’s had a resurgence of its own. Northeast opened the year 0-4, with three non-district losses and a loss to eventual district champ Boyd Anderson (more on them in a minute). Confidence: unshaken. The Hurricanes found their offense and rolled off six wins in a row to finish as a runner-up to Boyd Anderson. When Boyd Anderson forfeited a slew of games due to ineligible players, Northeast became the district champ.

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

ROYAL PALM BEACH
Record: 7-3
How they qualified: Runner-up in District 13-7A.
Average points per game: 31.5
Average points allowed per game: 20.9.
Offensive yardage totals: 245.7 rush, 102 pass per game.
Offensive stars: RB Tremane McCullough (1,534 rushing yards, 22 TD), QB Ant McGrew (55.8% completion rate, 917 passing yards, 9 TD, 5 INT, 646 rushing yards, 8 TD), WR Jo-Jo Williams (310 receiving yards, 5 TD).
Defensive yardage totals: 136.9 rush, 102.1 pass per game.
Defensive stars: DE Teddy Matthews, CB De’Andre Simmons.
Common opponents with Northeast: In the preseason, Northeast was leading Palm Beach Central 22-10 with 1:59 left in the first half when the game was called due to a fight. Royal Palm Beach beat Palm Beach Central 27-10 on Sept. 23.

OAKLAND PARK-NORTHEAST
Record: 7-3
How they qualified: Winner of District 14-7A.
Average points per game: 26.9.
Average points allowed per game: 17.8.
Offensive stars: QB Brandon Thompson (51% completion rate, 1,681 passing yards, 17 TD, 11 INT), WR Stacy Coley (439 receiving yards, 7 TD), RB Jamal Wallace (718 rushing yards, 7 TD).
Common opponents with Royal Palm Beach: In the preseason, Northeast was leading Palm Beach Central 22-10 with 1:59 left in the first half when the game was called due to a fight. Royal Palm Beach beat Palm Beach Central 27-10 on Sept. 23.

Royal Palm was shocked by John I. Leonard in Week 2, but came back to beat one of the area’s most talented teams, Palm Beach Central, the week after. The ‘Cats climbed up the ladder of a tough District 13-7A, dominating in games against weaker opponents and playing its most complete game in a 13-0 win over Atlantic that clinched a playoff spot. They fell short against Dwyer, which locked up McCullough like no other team has, and couldn’t upset Seminole Ridge, which is playing its best football right now.

It starts with McCullough, who tied for the most rushing touchdowns among large schools and was second in rushing yards. He averages about 24 carries per game and has no problem taking somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 handoffs. He’s 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds – some close friends say that’s generous – but just keeps getting back on his feet.

McCullough gets all types of handoffs from junior Ant McGrew, himself a threat to take off. McGrew is smallish and quick, and has decent arm strength and accuracy. He has strong targets in junior Jo-Jo Williams (6-2, 175) and sophomore Curtis Pryor.

Northeast’s best player — and one of the state’s best receivers — is 6-1, 170-pound junior Stacy Coley. He’s also a threat in the return game, as he showed against Palm Beach Central in the preseason. Coley, who has received verbal offers from Florida, Florida State and Tennessee, among others, put up 846 yards and seven touchdowns on 31 catches as a sophomore. He’ll likely match up with Royal Palm cornerback De’Andre Simmons, who has impressed down the stretch. Senior Frantz Augustin has benefitted from other teams focusing on Coley; he leads the ‘Canes with 462 yards on 32 receptions. Same idea applies to senior Kingston Saintil (322 yards on 16 grabs).

Royal Palm will try to get Northeast quarterback Brandon Thompson, a pocket passer, to move around. Northeast junior Jamal Wallace is eighth among Broward County large schools in rushing. Senior athlete Kevis Jones, a UCF commit, is used everywhere. All need to be aware of Royal Palm senior Teddy Matthews, a big (6-4, 250), aggressive pass rusher who finds himself in the backfield more often than not.

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