Posted: 11:36 am Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Weekend Rewind: 4 takeaways from Friday’s kickoff classics 

By Jeff Greer

Football season is here in earnest. And while none of this week’s games count in the standings, they certainly shed some light on this season’s potential direction.

Palm Beach Central shocked nationally ranked Miami Northwestern in the area’s most anticipated Friday night game. Fort Pierce Central held off a late rally from Royal Palm Beach in the best all-area-team matchup. And here’s the full rundown of the rest of the area’s games on Friday night.

Central players wait for their introduction on Friday night.

Before I get to my thoughts on the results from the area’s kickoff classics, I want to reflect on some awful news from Boca Raton.

Earlier this evening, I received a text message from a friend and good source who said a referee had potentially suffered a heart attack during the Wellington-Olympic Heights game. After chasing some leads, I reported the crazy tale here. As of the publishing of this post, the West Boca Medical Center’s media relations office hadn’t returned my repeated phone calls to confirm anything, but the staffs at both Olympic Heights and Wellington were both informed that the referee who’d collapsed actually died at the hospital. The school district also received the notice. It’s a Post policy to hold off on officially reporting someone’s death until it’s confirmed by an official directly involved with the patient in question.

That said, I experienced something tonight. Something clairvoyant.

I walked up and down the sidelines at Palm Beach Central, soaking in the sights and sounds of teenage boys playing the sport they love. The Central players, well aware of Northwestern’s national ranking and its four state titles, knew they were the underdogs. They embraced that role. When Northwestern waited outside Central’s locker room before the game just to get in some pregame jawing, Central’s players stood toe-to-toe and jawed back. Then they beat them. They hooted and hollered and jumped around when the buzzer sounded. It may not count in the standings, but they’ll never forget that game.

There were proud parents and teachers and administrators in the stands. There were cheerleaders excitedly watching from the sideline. Everyone was happy to start the football season, and even happier to do it with a win.

And yet, while all that took place, the kids in the Olympic Heights and Wellington locker rooms anxiously waited to go back out to the field after the head referee fell. Trainers and a Wellington coach applied CPR and used an AED to revive the referee on the field. He was carted off to an ambulance. The game was discontinued. Who could play football after that?

In that moment, on this night, which so many people in our community and around the state look forward to, all that is great and wonderful about life and football and friends and family stood toe-to-toe with its own vaunted opponent. Death doesn’t schedule its appearances. It doesn’t ask when our calendar is free. It just comes whether we’re ready or not.

I drove home tonight and put my laptop bag down and walked past the dinner waiting for me and right into the arms of my girlfriend. I hugged her as hard as I could. I told her I loved her. I clicked through pictures from last weekend, when I saw my family in New York before football season consumed me.

And I find myself sitting in front of my laptop well past 1 a.m. amazed by life’s treasures and treacheries. Just a nanosecond before the tragedy in Boca, those kids and fans and coaches and referees were all experiencing the same feelings we all felt up at Palm Beach Central. And the next minute they were gone, replaced by a different reality, a harsher one.

My point is: Enjoy these moments. Enjoy Friday nights. Enjoy the recruiting news and the score updates and the cheerleaders and the bands and the parents and the fans and the PAs and the scoreboards. You never know when reality will snatch it all away from you whether you’re ready or not.

With heavy hearts, let’s continue with Friday night’s other takeaways …

1. Central’s arrival. Northwestern certainly has some excuses — its star receiver didn’t dress. But the Bulls also lost more than 100 yards to penalties and committed three turnovers. To their credit, they only lost by three points. Central, for all its effort, really could’ve won this game by two touchdowns. It was a dominant performance. Can an exhibition win really make us believers in a deep playoff run for Central? Probably not. But what a way to keep momentum going after winning the first district title and first playoff game in program history in 2012.

2. Studs … I’m happy for Boynton Beach coach Rick Swain, who’s been trumpeting his teams every year since I arrived in 2010. It’s never quite panned out the way he said it would. On Friday night, though, Boynton outlasted Leonard for an impressive victory … Meanwhile out in the muck, Clewiston shocked Pahokee with a nine-point win. Can’t imagine a better way for the Pete Walker tenure to start at Clewiston … I also raised an eyebrow at Suncoast for their good win and Newman for its dominance.

3. And duds. After all the buzzing I’ve done on Pahokee’s behalf, maybe it’s time to cool it for a few weeks. I’m not selling my stock in Pahokee — I love the Blue Devils’ skill players — but I’m certainly concerned by the loss. That’s not a game Pahokee should be losing, regardless of its worth in the win-loss column … No way could I forget about Atlantic. In two games under new head coach TJ Jackson, the Eagles’ offense has zero points. Atlantic’s been outscored 63-0 in two games. Not a good way to start things off in Delray Beach.

4. How about an encore? Miami Central travels up I-95 for a good, old-fashioned donnybrook at Dwyer on Saturday night. Central’s the top-ranked team in the country, but Dwyer’s got plenty of Division I talent of its own. I suggest you go if you’ve got the night free. Kickoff’s at 7 p.m. See you there.