The first time a Palmetto player touched the ball Thursday, Malik Bell fielded a punt and ran 47 yards for a touchdown. That sparked a 36-6 Panthers’ rout against Braddock at Tropical Park to keep the early-season momentum going for a team which surpassed its 2014 season win total with the victory.
“This is great for the kids because you go through years and years of losing and now you win and it feels good,” Palmetto coach Mike Manasco said. “Palmetto has always had a strong tradition and it’s still there and the administration is doing a great job of restoring pride at the school.”
Palmetto (3-0) backed up Bell’s special teams highlight with a stellar defensive effort that limited the Bulldogs (1-1) to 89 total yards and no offensive points.
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Braddock’s only score came in the third quarter when Alex Victor returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown.
But prior to that play, Palmetto had built a 29-0 lead behind a methodical offensive attack that amassed 366 rushing yards and 481 overall. Sherron Jackson led the way with 109 yards on 14 carries and Xzayvious Neal ran for two short-yardage touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Hugh Lowson completed 6 of 10 passes for 100 yards and threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Ivan Thomas, who caught three passes for 69 yards and also a two-point conversion pass.
Palmetto went 2-8 last year and didn’t win a game until the sixth week of the season. The Panthers have outscored their first three opponents 99-24 and have played with noticeably more confidence so far. Their schedule will get tougher as they jump into District 16-6A competition, starting next Friday against South Dade at 7:30 p.m. at Harris Field.
Manasco cited penalties as one area of concern that must improve going forward. Palmetto drew 15 penalties for 147 yards.
“These are correctible mistakes and silly penalties,” Manasco said. “Looking at South Dade and Homestead and other teams we have coming up, I’m excited to see how we stack up.”