Posted: 12:36 am Friday, September 14th, 2012
By Matt Porter
BELLE GLADE — Wait, fourteen to nothing? Wasn’t Glades Central supposed to roll over and play dead? Heritage is nationally ranked. Glades Central looked soft as the butter you left on the counter.
Yeah, that’s what makes these games fun.
There was some kind of buzz out there Thursday night in the Muck, but it was much unlike what we’ve become accustomed to. It wasn’t the swaggering braggadocio of years past (though there was a little of that). It was mostly a tense, silent, collective whispering of “c’mon Raiders” under the breath of the fans and players wearing maroon and gold.
Glades Central, at 0-2, faced a team that was coming off a beatdown of the top Class 6A team in the state. A team that, if their pregame comments are any indication, smelled blood. But there we were, midway through the fourth quarter, scoreless. Glades Central wasn’t dead yet.
And then one play turned the whole game around, and the expected result happened. Just not at all like most people thought it might.
Let’s get into the details of a 14-0 win by top-ranked American Heritage, the first time the Stallions have defeated Glades Central and the first time Glades Central has gone 0-3 in quite some time:
Fumbling it away. Covered this in my game story, but here’s how the game was won. With under seven minutes left, Glades Central junior receiver Ronquavion Tarver caught a pass over the middle from senior quarterback Antwan Washington and was tackled. He lost the ball as he went down, but recovered it. He was piled on by a group of Stallions at the Glades Central 43.
But Heritage senior Ka’Wan Peete emerged with the ball and took it to the house. The Glades Central side went ballistic. The Heritage side celebrated. Scoreless tie, busted.
Tarver said afterward his knee was down when he lost the ball a second time. No one on the Glades Central side saw it differently. Heritage all but raced to their locker room afterward, but I was able to get assistant coach Brad Tremper.
“The ball was definitely out and everything,” Tremper said.
“They say I fumbled it,” Tarver said. “But I was down. When I was on the ground, he grabbed it again. I was on my knee and everything.”
“I thought his knee was down, but the ref didn’t see it,” coach Roosevelt Blackmon said. “It was a momentum swing.”
Glades Central players, after holding off Heritage that long, tried to keep their heads up. But turnovers did them in. Senior Will Likely fumbled on the next drive and Heritage missed a 37-yard field goal. After getting the ball back with 2:58 to go, Washington lost it at his own 35. Two Greg Bryant carries later, and Heritage up 14-0.
Stallions charging. Glades Central has four good seniors in the secondary in Likely, David Bailey and Devante Seabrook and Deandre Taylor. The defensive front played its best game so far. They helped hold Heritage quarterback Marcus Davis to just one completion, a screen pass in the backfield that Bryant turned into an 11-yard gain.
Heritage didn’t need to establish the pass, putting up 325 yards rushing on 41 carries. Aside from three fourth-quarter Chad Veccharella carries and the pass completion, the offense was ground-and-pound with Bryant and Davis.
Bryant was the bull, spending much of his night dragging a pile of defenders with him for five and six yards. He was stopped for a loss five times, but wound up with 151 yards and an eight-yard touchdown on 23 carries. Given his remarkable power and leg drive, Glades Central did a good job with him.
“Hats off to the defense,” Blackmon said. “That’s the best they’ve played all year.”
It was Davis they didn’t have an answer for. He was as elusive as I’ve seen him in the past three years, slipping around tackles and up the field. He had 143 yards on 15 carries, including runs of 25 and 43 on Heritage’s opening drive.
“What I can say about that team, they’re going to play hard all the time,” Davis said of Glades Central. “They run to the ball. They play hard. They play fast.”
They had to in order to contain those two Stallions. Bryant will make some SEC program very happy. Same with whatever ACC team Davis chooses.
New guy in town. Senior Antwan Washington took the reins at quarterback from fellow senior T.J. Abrams early in last week’s loss to Plantation. This was his first start at Glades Central, and it came with a much larger dose of responsibility.
Before his transfer to Glades Central, Washington was the quarterback in a run-heavy offense at Seminole Ridge. The Raiders love to run, but often take shots downfield. The faster Washington, who had been playing tight end and linebacker, can readjust to playing quarterback, the better off the Raiders will be.
All in all, he had a “fair” debut, Blackmon said. Washington (6-2, 205) was 8-of-16 for 96 yards in the first half, throwing two arm-punt interceptions into deep double coverage. His third interception came with 9:21 left in the fourth, when the Stallions showed an empty defensive backfield and senior Darrion Richardson came out of nowhere to snatch his second pick of the night.
“I think he played … fair,” Blackmon said. “We’ve just got to clean up the turnovers.”
Washington finished with 129 yards 12-of-27 passing. He has a strong corps of receivers– Likely, Tarver, senior David Bailey and Royal Palm Beach transfer T.J. Abrams, who started the season at quarterback for Glades Central — and seemingly had decent chemistry. Senior running back Aaron Baker (high ankle sprain) sat out, as did wide receiver Yvesner Ferdinand (concussion) and tight end Jamarius Way (staph infection).
The Raiders’ much-maligned offensive line still isn’t big or especially athletic, but it played better than I saw it play in the preseason loss to Royal Palm Beach, when it allowed six sacks. It allowed one Thursday, to monster Heritage sophomore defensive end Rondarian Bell (6-3, 190). There were plenty of missed blocks — the coaching staff grumbled all game about it — but they fought.
Hey Heritage, why only 14 points? Penalties. Loads of ‘em.
The Stallions finished with 14 yellows for 130 yards. That’s not going to get it done against the tougher teams on their schedule, like West Monroe, La. (Oct 26) or Dwyer (Nov. 8).
Coming off a 36-28 win at Armwood, Heritage looked jumpy, rather than confident. Davis seemed to think his team didn’t respect Glades Central enough.
“Again, we started off bad with the penalties. We came out a little lacksadasical,” Davis said. “Took those guys lightly.”
Was it that? Was it nerves? Was it overconfidence?
“Honestly, I’d rather not say anything on it,” Tremper said.
The Stallions killed five of their seven first-half drives due to flags. On Glades Central opening drive, pass interference calls got the Raiders across midfield and to the 7-yard line (Heritage blocked a 25-yard field goal try).
They cleaned it up somewhat in the second half, but holding penalties led to a punt and a missed 37-yard field goal. That’s another area Heritage would like to improve; they missed four field goal attempts. Tries of 42 and 39 yards were wide. In addition, Likely blocked a 47-yard try that Seabrook returned 32 yards. (The drive ended in a punt.)
Heritage’s defense was good, aside from the penalties. A unit that also shut out Atlantic in Week 1 held the Raiders to 69 yards on the ground 129 yards through the air. They know they’re good, too. Quick story:
Glades Central’s swagger appeared to return in the second quarter, after holding the heavily-favored Stallions down for the 12 opening minutes. The Raiders sideline started talking more, firing each other up. With Glades Central driving at midfield in the opening minutes of the quarter, even a Glades Central assistant coach was talking trash to American Heritage’s secondary, particularly Richardson and sophomore corner Trenard Davis.
“Hey number two! You flat-footed, man!” they shouted at Richardson.
“Number seven! Hey! Number seven! You too big to play corner!” they shouted to Davis, who is 6-1 and 190 pounds.
Before the snap on second-and-8 at the Heritage 48, Davis looked over to the sideline and said nothing. The ball was snapped, Washington went deep down the sideline, and Davis jumped in and picked it off. Richardson added the first of his two picks on a similar play with less than a minute left in the half.
Bottom line: “Moral victory” is a foreign phrase in Belle Glade. The 0-3 record looks bad, and has high school football fans from coast to coast wondering what’s up with Glades Central. But Raiders fans can take solace in the fact their team held off a high-powered team until the end.
“I just told him to keep their heads up,” Blackmon said. “It’s not a victory for us in terms of wins and losses, but it’s a victory because we got better.”
That quote will not play well in many corners of this town. Have to start somewhere, though. Glades Central can take plenty of positives from this.
Heritage didn’t play up to its capability, but it has an outstanding defense, the best backfield in the area, and several more weeks to get everything in sync. Class 3A teams are on notice.