Posted: 1:43 pm Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Playoff Primer 2011: Seminole Ridge hosts Palm Beach Gardens in exciting rematch 

By Jeff Greer

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

For the second week in a row, Palm Beach Gardens and Seminole Ridge get rematches. Gardens tied Park Vista in the regular season, then staved off a frantic comeback by Vista last week and won 35-21. Seminole Ridge roared back to a 21-6 win over Palm Beach Central in the season opener, and beat the Broncos again last week 17-7.

Back in October, Seminole Ridge rocketed out to a 21-0 lead and held on for dear life as Gardens stormed back. Ridge escaped with a 28-27 win. Let’s hope Friday’s game is just as exciting.

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

PALM BEACH GARDENS AT SEMINOLE RIDGE

PALM BEACH GARDENS
Record: 8-2.
In the regional quarters: Defeated Park Vista 35-21.
Average points for/against: 36.7/16.1
Yards gained per game: 295.5 rush/105.1 pass
Players to watch: RB Roshard Burney (1880 rushing yards, 19 TD), RB Alex Clark (837 rushing yards, 11 TD), WR Frank Brown (793 receiving yards, 11 TD), OT Avery Young, DL Anthony Hicks, LB Korey Wells

SEMINOLE RIDGE
Record: 9-2
In the regional quarters: Defeated Palm Beach Central 17-7
Average points for/against: 35.3/12.3
Yards gained per game: 208.9 rush/103.7 pass
Players to watch: RB Gary Holmes (1,358 rushing yards, 24 TD), QB Antwan Washington (55% completion rate, 13 TD, 2 INT), WR Darian Williams (563 receiving yards, 5 TD), DL Kyle Shortridge, DB Mike Almonte, DE Jason Shepherd

The two best running offenses in the area are sharing the field at Seminole Ridge. If you like good running games with smart assignment-blocking and great running backs, you’ll want to come to this game. All eyes will be on Seminole Ridge’s Gary Holmes, who has more than 3,000 career rushing yards, and Gardens’ breakout star running backs Roshard Burney and Alex Clark. Both teams lines move incredibly well, but are different in that Ridge’s line smaller and younger, but just as effective.

The running games are slightly different in how they operate. Ridge relies on lots of pre-snap motion and off-tackle runs by Holmes, who is just as tough to tackle but is the fastest back of the three. Ridge uses wing back Elie Turene and fullbacks EJ Elien and Justin Keip as decoys and occasional ball carriers. Quarterback Antwan Washington is built like a tight end, but he isn’t as much of a running threat as former Ridge QB Trevor Vanscoy was.

Gardens runs a hurry-up offense with a strong focus on getting downhill quickly. Burney does a good job of making tacklers miss. Clark is a one-cut back with breakaway speed. They are both tough to tackle, especially in a hurry-up set that wears down defenders who can’t get off the field. Offenses like Gardens’ are tough to defend because defenses can’t make adjustments and substitutions when the ball is snapped so quickly. That contrasts with Ridge, which huddles and goes on lengthy, wearing drives that have been known to take up seven, eight, nine minutes.

The passing games are similar, too. Both Washington and Gardens QB JP Caruso are used primarily as passers. They won’t run unless they have to. And unless their teams are in two-minute offenses, they’ll be looking down field to their deep-threat receivers. Ridge’s Darian Williams and Gardens’ Frank Brown have feasted on secondaries that couldn’t stay with them on vertical routes.

Ridge’s best advantage is on defense. The Hawks have aggressive edges on their front seven. The secondary did a fantastic job keeping a lid on Brown and Caruso. Granted, Burney still had a huge game, but Ridge made Gardens one-dimensional. That’ll be the Hawks’ goal again on Friday. For Gardens, sealing the edges and making tackles in the box will be critical. When Holmes got out to the second level and into the secondary, he was virtually impossible to bring down.

Ultimately, this is going to be an awesome game. I had the unfortunate responsibility of picking a winner in what is a toss-up. I chose Ridge to win by one point because the Hawks are at home and have playoff experience. But both teams are hot. This will be a game to remember.