BY GENE NARDI
Palm Beach Central High School’s varsity football squad hosted state power Vero Beach High School on Friday, Sept. 2 and fell to the Fighting Indians 49-26 before a capacity crowd. Vero Beach entered the contest ranked 10th in the Associated Press Florida Class 8A poll.
The Indians wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, with a 60-yard touchdown pass to take an early 7-0 lead. The quick score spurred a fury in the Bronco offense, which marched 75 yards to the Vero Beach 5-yard line, only to fumble the ball away. Vero Beach put together another solid drive and capped it with a 22-yard run for another score, making it 14-0.
Palm Beach Central’s offense went to work again, driving 80 yards. Bronco quarterback Michael Moreland connected with Trey Jackson on a 20-yard scoring pass. The point-after kick was no good, but the Broncos were able to close the gap to 14-6 near the end of the first quarter.
The Bronco defense responded, stopping the high-powered Vero Beach offense to regain possession. Palm Beach Central’s offense drove down to the Indians’ 20-yard line, where they attempted a field goal that was blocked. The Vero Beach offense struck again on a 35-yard touchdown pass and another late score before the half to extend the Indians’ lead to 28-6.
The Broncos sustained another drive, but an interception inside the red zone stalled another potential scoring opportunity. Bronco turnovers proved costly in the game.
During the second half, the Broncos remained optimistic in mounting a rally to close the margin. The offense came out and etched another score on the board for the Broncos to tighten the margin to 28-13, but the Indians punched right back, scoring three of their own to enter the fourth quarter with a 49-13 advantage.
Palm Beach Central continued to work, finally shutting down the Vero Beach offense. The Bronco offense closed in with two more scores late in the fourth quarter, narrowing the Vero Beach margin to 49-26, but the game clock winding down did not help the Broncos’ cause, and the Indians held on for the 49-26 win.
The loss is the second for the Broncos, after an impressive preseason kickoff classic win over Fort Pierce Central High School.
“We need to pay more attention to details in practice,” Palm Beach Central coach Tino Ierulli said. “We have to hold ourselves accountable when mistakes are made.”
Despite the loss, the Bronco offense put up some good numbers. Moreland completed nine of 17 passes for 197 yards and two scores. Running back Anthony Wynds tallied 147 yards on 15 carries. Receivers Lakeavious Simmons and Trey Jackson each had a touchdown. Receiver Tyler Freeman reeled in 90 yards on five receptions.
“I’m very happy the way the offense played,” Ierulli noted.
Palm Beach Central continues to look for its first regular-season win. The team travels to William T. Dwyer High School on Friday, Sept. 9 for a 7 p.m. game.
ABOVE: Bronco receiver Tyler Freeman tries to avoid the Vero Beach defense after a reception.