Posted: 12:20 pm Monday, September 24th, 2012
By Jeff Greer
BELLE GLADE — State Route 80 never ends. At least that’s the way it feels driving back from the Muck.
And if Park Vista had it its way, Friday night never would’ve ended. The Cobras, who’d never played in Belle Glade, took full advantage of a “down” Glades Central, displaying the persistence and discipline that has driven them to 4-0. It was a rewarding win for Park Vista, which wanted to prove itself in one of the area’s most challenging atmospheres.
“We still believe they’re a very talented team,” Park Vista coach Brian Dodds said. “We caught them at the right time.”
How’d they do it?
Consider Park Vista’s strengths: Myriad ball-carrying options, a shifty quarterback who can pass or run, smart linebackers and a hard-hitting safety in Marques Gayot, who’s emerged as one of the early stars this fall. Each of those was on display Friday.
Vista ran 10 different guys. The Cobras rushed 47 times for 266 yards and one touchdown, a 1-yard stomach punch from Lekraig Bens. That touchdown tied the game at 7. The two other touchdown-scoring drives ended with pay-dirt passes, both from quarterback Qwad Martin to Gayot, but they were derived via the run. A relentless rushing attack, mixed with end-arounds, misdirections, read options and between-the-tackle yard-shavers, undid Glades Central, particularly in the second half.
By the time Vista entered Glades Central territory on its drives, the defense was exhausted, confused and, quite frankly, missing key assignments. That’s not the “Raider football” that coach Roosevelt Blackmon wants his team to play. Park Vista took advantage.Bens had 12 carries for 51 yards, including his TD. Martin ran 14 times for 77. Nelyja Floyd sprinkled in 33 yards, while Dalton Barkman (27) and Adrien Cerrato (22) led the rest. Four other Cobras had 10 yards or more.
Martin started slow this season. He threw three interceptions against Seminole Ridge, and has four for the season. His completion rate is under 50 percent. But in the two games I’ve seen, he’s recovered well from mistakes and improved between my first viewing (Seminole Ridge on Sept. 7) and Friday night at Glades Central.
He didn’t have to throw other than to set up the run or exploit a soft middle. Both TD passes to Gayot were simple seam softies, with Glades Central’s linebackers committing to the run and its safeties somewhere else. It’s hard to imagine how a 6-foot-2, 190-pound Gayot could go unseen, but he did. That’s 12 points.
In addition to his 77 rushing yards, including several key fourth-down conversions and other first-down runs, the junior Martin was 6-of-9 for 53 passing yards. No turnovers.
“It does take time to get comfortable and get going and he’s doing that,” Dodds said of his quarterback. “He’s learning from his mistakes and really takes on a leadership role in the offense.”
Just missing a piece or two
For Glades Central, it’s hard to capture where the Raiders truly stand. The four teams they’ve played — Dwyer, Plantation, American Heritage and Park Vista — are a combined 15-1 to start the season. Dwyer is ranked second in Class 7A, behind one of the top-rated teams in the nation, and is ranked second in Florida by FlaVarsity.com. American Heritage is considered by MaxPreps the second-best small-school team in the nation, and is highly ranked in multiple other polls. Meanwhile Park Vista is close to being ranked in Class 8A.
So how much can we actually assess Glades Central when this team was expected to struggle and it’s starting against such good teams?
“(Turnovers are) our biggest problem,” Blackmon said of his team. “You can’t beat a team as good as that with that many turnovers. You can’t beat any of the teams we’ve played when you’re turning the ball over. We’ve only played good or great teams so far. I’m not making excuses — you can never do that — but against good teams, it hurts more.”
Blackmon talked about returning to “Raider football,” a phrase I used above. It seems Raider football, and correct me, guys, if I’m wrong, features a suffocating pass rush and a lightning-strike offense. Well, Glades Central isn’t quite there.
The defensive line and linebackers need a ton of work. In fairness, they’re inexperienced. The linebacking corps of Jatavis Brown, Dominique Gibson and Don’Kevious Johnson spoiled us the past two years. Wilky Orelien’s transfer didn’t help. So the new guys plugged in need time. On Friday, they rushed gaps instead of following the guards and ball carriers. They spent lots of time in the backfield — once the ball was already off a tackle or in the second level. Secondaries making tackles on runs is a formula for disaster.As for the offense, it’s a work in progress. Antwan Washington looked great at quarterback — in the first half. He hardly had time in the pocket in the second half, needing to scramble frequently to avoid pressure. With Aaron Baker in street clothes, the only other rusher was Will Likely, who, for some reason, continues to receive limited touches. There is no reason Likely should ever get fewer than 20 touches a game. He had 12 on Friday.
Back to Washington: He was 21 of 29 for 173 yards and two touchdowns. His interception came on a last-gasp play at the end of the game. His main success came from a mixed bag of options, including lots of drags, screens, swings, slants and hitches. In other words, quick-release patterns that take pressure off a young, inexperienced and overwhelmed offensive line. The result? Ronquavion Tarver had six catches for 49 yards, Likely had five for 28, TJ Abrams had four for 26 and a touchdown and three others caught passes. Washington had two of his passes dropped either in the end zone or on the goal line. Not his fault.
Going forward, this is an offense that could produce. We at PBGametime still believe Glades Central is the favorite in District 14-5A. And that slate begins next week against Suncoast. A bye week will help Central figure things out, and the losing should stop, even if right now feels like SR-80 for Raiders fans.