Miami Herald’s Miami-Dade County Athletic Awards
Clinging to a 14-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter against a fired up and good Hialeah team on Thursday night, Palmetto, a team that entered the season with all kinds of big expectations, was in danger of dropping a second game in a row.
The Panthers needed to see if somebody would step up and make a play. As it turned out, it was more than one person.
Three different Palmetto defensive backs picked off four Hialeah passes in the final eight minutes and returned three of them for touchdowns as the Panthers pulled away for a much-closer-than-it-looked 34-13 win at Milander Stadium.
“Tonight was a struggle, and we really came out with low energy,” Palmetto coach Mike Manasco said. “Our secondary definitely bailed us out there in the end, but even they hadn’t had a great game up to that point. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Manasco watched as his all-world athlete Corey Collier came up big with two of the interceptions, including a 70-yarder for a score that made it 20-13 with just over six minutes left.
Collier, a Class of 2021 prospect who has upwards of 40 FBS offers, then came through again four minutes later when he picked off another pass and appeared to be headed to the end zone.
But he was stripped of the ball just before he went into the end zone, and the T-Breds recovered at their own 1 with 1:34 left.
“It felt great to step up and make a few plays, but I’ll have to learn to make sure I don’t let something like that happen again,” Collier said. “We managed to come up with some big plays there at the end, but we know we didn’t play our best tonight.”
Collier’s mistake didn’t matter. On the very next play, Derrick Edwards picked off Hialeah quarterback Jaylon Tolbert and returned it 20 yards for a score.
Three plays after the ensuing kickoff, Jason Marshall got in on the pick-six act when he picked one off at his own 35 and bobbed and weaved his way 65 yards to finish things off.
Palmetto (2-1), ranked No. 10 in the Miami Herald’s Top 20 South Florida poll, got on the board first thanks to a Hialeah fumble when T-Bred running back D’Shawn Trowers fumbled on the first play of the game.
That Panthers then went 50 yards in just five plays and scoreed when quarterback Kevin Smith found wide receiver Brashard Smith (no relation) over the middle for a 30-yard tocuhdown.
The T-Breds (1-2) had a very quick answer for Palmetto’s score with a touchdown of their own. Three plays after coach Gary Sanchez gambled and won when the T-Breds converted a fourth-and-3 at their own 42, Tolford found receiver found Fredrick Eaford, a University of Miami commit, down the left sideline for a 37-yard score.
The teams then began trading punts for most of the first half before Palmetto scored 2:19 before halftime on a 3-yard Tyrone Maxwell touchdown run. One play earlier, Smith had found Mike Jackson for a 38 yard pass on third-and-8.