Posted: 2:10 am Wednesday, November 21st, 2012
Playoff Primer 2012: In regional semifinals, Seminole Ridge and Palm Beach Central ramp up the rivalry
By Matt Porter
It’s the game both teams expected to play at some point. Palm Beach Central and Seminole Ridge were slated for a season-opening game in Wellington, but Hurricane Isaac, then a tropical storm, had other plans. Both teams made their way through their districts and one round of the playoffs, and here we are. The symmetry’s nice, but that’s not all that’s special about this one.
CLASS 8A REGION 3 SEMIFINAL
Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, 7:30 p.m.
at Seminole Ridge High, Loxahatchee
General admission $8; reserved seating $9.
PALM BEACH CENTRAL
How they qualified: District 10-8A champions.
Last round: Beat Palm Beach Gardens 27-19 in regional quarterfinals.
Average points per game: 33.8
Average points allowed per game: 10.5
Offense: 308.5 yards per game (247.7 rush, 60.8 pass)
Defense: 211.8 yards per game (116.2 rush, 95.6 pass)
Offensive standouts: RB Lloyd Howard (225 carries, 1,227 yards, 8 TD); RB Tommy McDonald Ray Wilson (30 carries, 251 yards, 4 TD), LT Kc McDermott (6-6, 282, multiple BCS offers), RT Nickedel Pierre 6-3, 310.
Defensive standouts: DE Blake Cassandra (6-1, 210), DE Nick Cassandra (6-2, 220), LB Wilky Orlein (5-11, 195).
How they qualified: District 9-8A champions.
Last round: Beat Park Vista 35-31 in regional quarterfinals.
Average points per game: 23.2
Average points allowed per game: 17.4
Offense: 308.2 yards per game (264.4 rush, 43.8 pass)
Defense: 212 yards per game (92.1 rush, 119.9 pass)
Offensive standouts: RB Silas Spearman (141 carries, 1,053 yards, 8 TD); RB E.J. Elien (103 carries, 681 yards, 1 TD), RB Elie Turene (81 carries, 612 yards, 8 TD).
Defensive standouts: DT Kyle Shortridge (6-2, 280, Purdue commit) DE Jason Shepherd (6-1, 240, Bowling Green commit), CB Omar Pierre-Louis (6-0, 180, Bowling Green commit), LB Rayfield Dixon (6-3, 195), S Mike Almonte (6-0, 170).
History: Week 1 2012 game canceled. Seminole Ridge beat Palm Beach Central 17-7 in 2011 8A regional quarterfinals. Ridge is 7-1 all-time against Central, winning the last seven games.
Matt’s pick: Seminole Ridge 34-27.
Pinkos prediction: Seminole Ridge by 1.
Lazindex: Palm Beach Central by 7.
Seminole Ridge hasn’t lost to Palm Beach Central since 2005, its winless first season. But any Hawks fan thinking their team’s got this one in the bag is sadly mistaken. The teams are too evenly matched.
Both teams have a three-headed monster in the backfield: Central seniors Ray Wilson and Lloyd Howard team with junior Tommy McDonald to put up 2,010 yards and 20 touchdowns. Together, Ridge seniors Elie Turene and Silas Spearman and junior E.J. Elien have put up 2,346 yards and 17 touchdowns. Neither team looks to pass often, but Ridge’s Zach DeCosta and Central’s Kevin Bramhall, both junior first-year starters, have played effective ball of late.
Both teams run behind beefy offensive lines: Central junior left tackle Kc McDermott (6-6, 282), one of the top linemen in his class, rides with 6-3, 310 pound right tackle Nickedel Pierre. Ridge’s Antonyo Woods and Roman Fernandez are a formidable combo, and the Hawks are tough to stop when they move into a jumbo set with two star defensive linemen, Kyle Shortridge (6-2, 280) and Jason Shepherd (6-1, 240).
Ridge has the better defense, loaded with future FBS players like Shortridge, a Purdue-committed defensive tackle, corner Omar Pierre-Louis and defensive end Shepherd (both Bowling Green commits), and outside linebacker Rayfield Dixon. Meanwhile, the edge goes to Palm Beach Central on special teams, with senior kicker Cameron Golob, a touchback machine who made a 50-yard field goal earlier this month, and Howard, the most electric return man on either roster.
They even advanced to this round in oddly similar ways. In the regional quarterfinals, both Central and Ridge gave up a backbreaking touchdown in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, only to see it wiped off the board due to a penalty on their opponent. The deciding play of both games: a caught ball that deflected off the other team. Howard’s game-sealing interception skipped off a Gardens receiver’s hands; Pierre-Louis’ game-winning 35-yard touchdown catch with 18.1 seconds left went through the mitts of a Park Vista defender.
Even the Hawks’ home-field advantage should be nil, since Wellington and Loxahatchee are 14 miles apart and the Broncos travel well.
So where to find an edge?
The Hawks showed last week they can pass — after throwing 1 touchdown against 7 picks coming into the playoffs, DeCosta went off for 4 touchdowns and no picks. His receivers ran strong routes for him, but he’s now a positive for the Hawks rather than a negative. He’s used to the game now, and it’s got to give the Broncos some pause.
Like Ridge, Central believes it’s got a few tricks in store, but its best magic comes from Howard. If they can get the ball to him in space, the Broncos can turn any play into six points. And if they get into Ridge territory, they can start thinking about a probable three points from Golob. In a game this tight, his leg could be the difference.
On paper, this game is as close as it gets. On the field, it should be as good as it gets.
helmets courtesy of Florida Helmet Project
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