Posted: 11:51 pm Friday, August 31st, 2012
By Matt Porter
DELRAY BEACH – The first week of a high school football season is usually a mess. It’s rare any team is on-point – and no, looking good against a lesser opponent doesn’t count. Week 1 of the 2012 season should go down as one of the messiest in recent memory.
Isaac did his damage last weekend, but the practice fields were hurting this week, allowing most teams two days of on-field preparation. Every team that was able to play Friday night – pour one out for Seminole Ridge, Palm Beach Central, Pahokee and Royal Palm Beach, who were not – deserves a small amount of credit for being there. Probably wasn’t fun after a short week.
So we didn’t expect a lot out of the teams that suited up Friday. Even those coming off a state championship, like American Heritage. Neither the Stallions – who were lucky enough to get in three days of practice beforehand – nor Atlantic showed much in Year 2 of their rivalry series. Heritage’s 29-0 win (read the game story here) was hardly artful, but it’s worth a few talking points:
Heritage defense came to play. Atlantic hurt itself with penalties and other mental mistakes, but any time a defense gives up net 8 yards on the ground, it deserves full marks. Five sacks in total for Heritage, coming from big tackle Rod Johnson (1 ½), tackle Giancarlo Bennardo, linebacker Josh Holley, end Ronald Bell (1/2) and rangy sophomore edge rusher Rondarian Bell.
They had pressure all night, which helped the linebackers and secondary lock down coverage. Senior Ka’Wan Pete had an interception that killed early momentum, and Holley picked off a pass with 7:11 left. Stallions allowed 97 yards through the air and kept Atlantic senior Jay Mentecky scrambling. Heritage’s best athletes play two ways – we saw Greg Bryant lining up at corner on Adly Enoicy – but they hardly looked tired. Meanwhile …
Atlantic needs work. Having a short week helped no one, but Atlantic’s conditioning was clearly an issue. The sideline was sagging by the end of this one. Heritage didn’t have an outstanding game offensively – a quick-strike touchdown pass to start, two longer drives that ended in 3- and 4-yard Bryant touchdown runs, and three drives saved by field goals – but Atlantic couldn’t match up physically. Got pushed around and had trouble wrapping up. Add in the flags, the after-the-whistle pushing and all that jawing … it won’t be a fun film study for players tomorrow morning.
No rush to judgment. What is Atlantic’s offense going to look like by season’s end? Who knows. Right now, it’s hardly run-oriented. Atlantic senior Tevin Spells had nine yards on six carries, including a 13-yarder and three for negative yardage. Spells put in his work, throwing a crushing block on a second-quarter QB keeper that had the Atlantic side hooting and hollering. In total, Eagles coaches called 18 rushing plays, not including sacks.
That meant more pressure on new quarterback Jay Mentecky, who struggled to find his rhythm. He showed some zip on his throws, completing two early passes of 36 and 24 yards, but doesn’t yet have solid timing with his receivers. He does have some good ones – juniors Adly Enoicy, Thomas Owens and Jovany Aris – but it’s going to be hard to find them unless his offensive line can keep him upright. It was a frustrating night for Mentecky.
Reading between the lines. Greg Bryant is still a man among boys, but his offensive line is a work in progress. Bryant wasn’t the dominant force seen in January’s state-title game, but he’s working with smaller lanes. Last year it was big holes and glancing blows. Friday, he had no problem dragging defenders with him as bounced his way to 95 yards and two short touchdowns on 17 carries.
The question is how he’s going to hold up if he continues to take that kind of pounding. Heritage graduated Kelly Parfitt and Blake Davis (now at UCF) and Arthur Crouse (FAU), and valued H-back Tyler Provo missed the game with an ankle injury. Heritage’s best lineman, 6-foot-5, 310-pound Roderick Johnson, was helped off the field in the second half. If he’s hurt enough to miss time, Bryant’s in for more long nights.
What’ll help is senior Chad Veccharella, who ripped off a 41-yard carry on his first touch, and QB extraordinaire Marcus Davis.
The positives. Frankly, I’m sick of writing about what went wrong and how sluggish each team looked. Let’s discuss the two best players we haven’t already:
Davis is 5-foot-10. He’ll almost certainly play defense in college, but he’s a heck of a high school offensive weapon. You want a 39-yard option run up the middle? How about a perfectly-sold fake handoff, then an 18-yard touchdown pass over the top? A slippery 19-yard run? You get all that and more with Davis.
Atlantic senior Brisly Estime had an 85-yard kickoff return to start the second half, dancing and downshifting, waiting for blocks, turning it up, from the 1 almost all the way down the field. That was Atlantic’s best chance at getting back in the game. He also had a 36-yard reception in the first quarter, hauling in a rifleshot pass from Mentecky. Estime can be a momentum-changer, but no Eagle had it in them tonight.