Football | South Plantation

Paladins are thriving amid increased attention


South Plantation has drawn notice with a female quarterback on its roster, but running back Alex Collins has led it to a 4-0 record.

South Plantation running back Alex Collins said all the media attention his team has received lately for having the first female quarterback in Florida history hasn’t been a distraction.

Not at all, the county’s leading rusher said.

“Really, it put us on the map,” Collins said. “We have a lot of people broadcasting our games, and that helps with recruiting. South Plantation hasn’t been good in the past, but we’ve done pretty good lately.”

Collins, it could be argued, brought plenty of attention to the Paladins’ football program last year when he rushed for almost 1,800 yards with 28 touchdowns before committing to the University of Miami in January.

Although senior quarterback Erin DiMeglio has brought notice to the South Plantation program it usually wouldn’t receive, it is the football that have folks talking about the Paladins.

“Our motivation is going unbeaten, so we look at every team the same,” said Collins, whose team plays Taravella in a key District 11-8A game Friday night. “This game will determine how the rest of our season goes. This is the next step toward achieving a trip to states. We take things as they come.”

South Plantation heads to Coral Springs with a 4-0 record, just a touch better than the 3-1 Trojans. The winner of Friday’s game gets a key edge in the district race as it appears midway through the season that these two programs are the best 11-8A has to offer.

Last year, the Paladins didn’t heed the warning of coach Doug Gatewood and overlooked a Taravella team that struggled by going 2-8 in 2010.

Gatewood told his team that Taravella coach Dan Marguriet — a longtime rival of Gatewood’s when he was at Piper and Marguriet was coaching the Paladins — would have his crew ready to play. And so he did.

The Trojans, who bounced back by going 9-2 last season, took a 24-0 lead on South Plantation before holding on for a 33-26 victory. South Plantation ended 7-4 with just one loss in the district to finish second.

If the Paladins take Taravella lightly this time around, well, they do so at their own peril.

“This will be a test of their mental nature,” said Gatewood, in his third season as coach of the Paladins after serving as an assistant there after leaving Piper. “We have athletes, we have players. But trying to go undefeated, you have to get up for every game. We took them real light last year. But after what happened, I think they respect Taravella now.”

Said Collins: “We definitely underestimated them. We started off good, then the game was delayed. We treated them as if they were some crappy team, and they ended up slapping us in the mouth. They jumped on us. We don’t want that to happen again.”

As for DiMeglio, Gatewood has brushed off criticism that he brought her in for the publicity. As coach of the girls’ flag football team last year, Gatewood said he saw something special in DiMeglio, that she would learn leadership skills that would help once spring rolled around.

DiMeglio has shown she can play and that this is no stunt. Last week in a lopsided win over Piper, she became the first female in Florida history to complete a pass in a varsity game.

“St. Thomas plays on national TV all the time, but our kids aren’t used to having cameras in the locker room or on the field during warmups,” Gatewood said. “Last week, it almost looked like a Dolphins game.”

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