ROYAL PALM BEACH — It wasn’t a pretty night for football, but playmakers like De’Andre Simmons and Jimmy Moreland didn’t mind.
The lines on the outer third of field were nearly impossible to discern. Mud was the main color of everyone’s uniform. It rained for much of the night. That didn’t stop Simmons and Moreland from making an imprint on Royal Palm Beach’s 15-6 win over No. 6 Palm Beach Central. Read all about it in my game story.
Big play boys. With his team up nine points late in the fourth quarter, Simmons reclaimed the game. He burst upfield about 50 yards from his cornerback position, catching Central senior Lloyd “Bam” Howard from behind and punching out the ball. Simmons, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior with an offer from Middle Tennessee State, recovered it with four minutes and change.
“I thought he was going to score, to be honest. I just kept trying to get him. I punched the ball out when I got him,” Simmons said. “People thought Bam was faster than me because of all that he does. But it’s nothing. I know he’s not faster than me. I had to prove it tonight.”
“Great football player, great play,” Palm Beach Central coach Rod Harris said of Simmons.
Moreland, a junior who blocked seven kicks or punts last year as a sophomore, is only 5-7 and about 150 pounds. He’s a baller, though. He had six carries for 85 yards and two touchdowns, mostly as a quarterback in the Wildcat formation. He got loose for a 50-yard touchdown run (and a two-point conversion run) and a 33-yard rumble to set up a 1-yard TD plunge. Shifty, shifty, shifty. Looks a lot like former Jupiter Christian star Tre Pendergrass, though he might be a bit bigger.
Broncos’ offense improved. The conditions favored the run, but Palm Beach Central showed an ability to pass, which had to feel good coming off its 10-6 loss to Palm Beach Gardens. But all isn’t well: after scoring 124 points in the preseason and Week 1 combined, the Broncos have just 12 points in their last two.
Central’s quarterback battle appears to be over, as senior Kyle Shafer was 6-for-11 for 139 yards, including completions of 43 and 57 yards. He showed good chemistry with sophomore receiver Andrew Prince (three catches, 64 yards), who looks like a prospect to watch at 6-2, 175. Solid hands, athletic, strong route-runner.
“We’ve been working on it,” Harris said. “It dried up a little bit, and that opened things up. But at the end of the day, we lost 15-6.
“We’ve got a big line, great running backs, everybody knows it. They’re putting everyone in the box,” Harris said. “We’re working on our passing game and [it's] showing signs of life.”
Faced with a muddy, slippery field and a strong Royal Palm front seven, the Broncos’ run game didn’t impress as much as in past games. They had 109 yards on 33 carries, with Howard (8 carries, 31 yards) and senior Tommy McDonald (13 carries, 45 yards) getting the bulk of the work.
Senior Ray Wilson wasn’t a factor on offense (2 carries, 10 yards) but played a hard-hitting safety — he was especially effective blitzing — and intercepted a second-quarter pass. Sophomore Kamar Downer, a transfer from Wellington, was used as a Wildcat QB and warmed up throwing passes before the game. He didn’t attempt one, but had 11 yards on six carries.
The Broncos have perhaps the area’s biggest line — 6-7, 280-pound junior Kc McDermott and 6-3, 310-pound senior Nickedel Pierre at the tackles — so give credit to Royal Palm for winning their share of those battles.
An under-the-radar weapon for Central: punter Jordan Acham (note: I originally confused senior Cameron Golob, the Broncos’ placekicker, with Acham. Golob is No. 33. Acham is No. 43.) Huge leg on the 5-9, 165-pound junior, who had six for 222 yards (37-yard average) and produced them skillfully in soggy conditions.
Proving ground for Wildcats. Royal Palm was high off its preseason win at Glades Central before crashing in a five-point loss to John I. Leonard in Week 2. After a bye week, the Wildcats went into Friday’s game not knowing quite what they had.
“We just haven’t played,” coach Willie Bueno said. “You never really know until you play. We had as tough a practice last week as we’ve ever had — just physical, to try and get some game situation — but you never can replace that. We just need to play, see some different things, play some different people. I think now we can start getting into a bit of a groove now.”
But the defense looked as good as it did against Glades Central, stuffing the run and getting pressure in the backfield. Sixteen of Palm Beach Central’s 33 carries were for 3 yards or less. Though Central racked up an astounding 23.2 yards per reception, that came mostly because Royal Palm stacked the box, like most teams do against Central even when the ground is dry.
“It proved that we came a long game since we played John I.,” Simmons said. “Wellington beat John I. the next week, so we felt like we had to prove something to people. We had to beat Palm Beach Central tonight.”
Lighter moments: Noting his team lost two reserve players due to home-school transfer and now numbers 28 players, a Royal Palm Beach assistant coach made light of the Wildcats’ roster size. “We’re going to petition to join Class 2A,” he said. “We look like Village Academy.” … Never seen this before: for some reason, referees and Royal Palm staff re-painted the south goal line three minutes before kickoff. Apparently, it was too close to the 1-yard line. … Players slipped all over the turf, stunting several possible long gains. Early in the third quarter, Royal Palm senior JoJo Williams caught a 16-yard pass and went down face-first in a puddle of mud. Players laughed as a coach helped him clean out his helmet.
Bottom line: Royal Palm made the big plays in conditions that could have turned the game either way. If a few of the five fumbles the Wildcats recovered went to Central, we might be discussing a different outcome. But, c’est le football. Royal Palm has its first district game next week at Santaluces, which stunned No. 8 Atlantic on Friday, while Central has a crosstown rivalry game with surprising Wellington next week and opens district play Oct. 5 at Park Vista.
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