Dolphins High school Media day at Hard Rock Stadium
With huge expectations coming in to the 2019 season, Palmetto got out of the gate in quick fashion Thursday.
With the “Big Cat” trophy on the line against rival Killian, the Panthers jumped out in front with two touchdowns in the first three minutes and never looked back, routing the Cougars 41-7 at Tropical Park Stadium.
That meant Palmetto keeps that much-coveted trophy for the fourth consecutive year. But while the Panthers certainly cherish the hardware, they’re looking for much bigger things this season.
With at least eight players on his roster entertaining multiple FBS offers, including uncommitted wide receiver Kentron Poiter, coach Mike Masasco has put together a Palmetto team that, for the first time since anyone can remember, is being talked about as a possible state finalist in Daytona Beach in December.
“The kids were definitely focused tonight and even though we won last year, this was kind of a redemption game for them,” said Manasco, referring to Palmetto’s narrow and much-closer-then expected one-point win in 2018. “Things were still a little sloppy. But it’s our first game, and there’s plenty of time to work on things. As far as big expectations, I really don’t talk to the kids about that. I talked to them after the game and told them one thing, practice next Monday.
“I know it sounds like a cliche, but I’m trying to keep the team grounded and it’s one day at a time around here.”
Ranked No. 7 when the Miami Herald released its first Dade/Broward Top 20 poll of the 2019 season this week, Palmetto will likely tangle with South Dade or Columbus in the postseason to get out of Miami-Dade County in Class 8A before possibly having to hurdle Broward County power Deerfield Beach to make it to Daytona Beach.
“Coach reminded us all week about our game with them last year, so we weren’t going to have any of that tonight,” said Poitier, who finished his night with six catches for 53 yards and two touchdowns and has narrowed down his schools to Syracuse, Tennessee, Florida State or Florida. “As far as big things being predicted for us this year? Coach won’t let us look that far. Practice Monday, that’s it.”
The evening and the season couldn’t have gotten off to a better start for the Panthers when Mike Jackson took the opening kickoff and bolted 90 yards for a score, and a 7-0 lead. After Killian went three-and-out, Leonard Taylor broke through and blocked the punt, recovering it on the Cougars’ 4-yard line.
Two plays later, quarterback Kevin Smith dropped back and tossed an alley-oop throw to the corner of the end zone that Poitier came down with. Palmetto led 14-0 just two-and-half minutes into the game.
It could’ve been whole lot worse for Killian and a whole lot better for Palmetto had a four-yard Smith touchdown run not been nullified by a holding call late in the first quarter which was followed by a missed field goal.
Midway through the second quarter, Palmetto defensive back Jason Marshall ripped the ball from the grasp of Killian tight end David Serralta after a reception and took off 85 yards for a score, but the Panthers were called for a helmet-to-helmet infraction, nullifying the play.
Less than a minute before halftime, Smith dropped back and found Brashard Smith wide open down the middle for a 53-yard score. This time there were no flags on the ground, which made it 20-0 at the break.
While the offense managed to put up enough points, it was the Panther defense, which will carry this team a lot this season, that ran the show on Thursday. Thanks to five sacks — three by Dwight Dassaw — Palmetto held the Cougars to 23 yards of offense and three first downs in the first half.
Trailing 27-0, Killian, led by running back Frank Gore Jr., scored on a 20 yard touchdown pass from Gore to Terrance Huggins and then recovered a Palmetto fumble on the next play. Gore temporarily electrified the Killian offense when he started running the offense out of shotgun.
Gore then scrambled twice down to Palmetto’s 1-yard line and the Cougars were ready to cut their deficit to 13. But Gore fumbled, and Robert Hanna scooped up the loose ball and returned it to midfield. Six plays later, Smith hooked up with Poitier for the second time, from 14 yards out, to make it 34-7, which ended the issue.
Derrick Edwards returned an interception 99 yards midway through the fourth quarter to complete the scoring.