Posted: 12:50 am Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Playoff Primer 2012: Central, Gardens meet again 

By Jeff Greer

On Friday, there are 16 playoff games involving teams from our area. In the buildup to the games, we’ll break down every matchup.

Gardens' running back Jermaine Carn beat out Central playmaker Lloyd Howard for the large-schools rushing title by 3 yards.

Another big-time Class 8A playoff matchup, another rematch of a regular-season game. And just like Ridge-Vista, this one’s funny in that the district champ and playoff host lost the regular-season contest. And, we promise this is a separate playoff primer, both teams look a bit different than when they last met. Central’s offensive line has worked out some of the early-season issues that kept the Broncos’ running game grounded, while Gardens’ defense hasn’t been as oppressive as it was.

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

PALM BEACH CENTRAL
Record: 7-2.
How they qualified: Winner, District 10-8A.
Average points per game: 34.6.
Average points allowed per game: 9.6.
Offensive yardage totals: 2,749 (2,181 rush/568 pass).
Offensive stars: RBs Lloyd Howard, Tommy McDonald, Ray Wilson, OT Kc McDermott.
Defensive yardage totals: 1,822 (1,009 rush/813 pass).
Best win: 45-7 over Park Vista.

PALM BEACH GARDENS
Record: 7-2 (though one loss is by forfeit, not on the actual field)
How they qualified: Runner-up, District 9-8A.
Average points per game: 24.3.
Average points allowed per game: 13.3.
Offensive yardage totals: 2,807 (1,841 rush/966 pass).
Offensive stars: RB Jermaine Carn (large schools rushing champ), WR Frank Brown.
Defensive yardage totals: 2,060 (1,337 rush/723 pass).
Defensive stars: DE Da’Kwon DePolo.
Best win: 10-6 over Palm Beach Central.

PBGametime favorite: Palm Beach Central.
Pinkos’ prediction: Palm Beach Central by 10.
Lazindex prediction: Palm Beach Central.

Call us crazy, but this one’s close to a tossup, too. The biggest difference is the stats aren’t quite as lined up as they are in the Ridge-Vista matchup. Central’s strength on offense is Gardens’ weakness on defense. And while Gardens negated that weakness in its 10-6 win over Central two months ago by allowing only 103 rushing yards and forcing three turnovers, it’s hard to see Central being stifled like that again. The Broncos’ running game has been downright destructive since its back-to-back September losses. Central’s scored 35 or more points in each of its six consecutive wins, and running back Lloyd Howard has emerged as perhaps the area’s most exciting large-schools player.

The health of Gardens’ defensive line could very well decide this game. Gardens defensive end Da’Kwon DePolo is a difference maker. It’s very difficult to block him, and he had a disruptive and disastrous presence for Gardens in its gritty win over Central. If he’s healthy and the linebacking corps behind his D-line is awake, Gardens can come close to repeating its September performance. But that’s also assuming Central plays as poorly as it did two months ago, a prospect that seems less than likely. The Broncos are in postseason form, and have been for a month, and the area’s best offensive line is a huge (literally) reason for that.

Meanwhile the Central secondary will have its hands full with Gardens receiver Frank Brown. He’s one of the area’s most explosive players, and given an inch, he can pop off for a huge play whenever he has the ball. His win-sealing nine route against Seminole Ridge put Gardens in the regional finals last year. Which brings me to another key point: How much does last year’s playoff run help Gardens in critical situations? Many of the players on the Gators’ roster were critical elements of last year’s team. That has to help.