BY GENE NARDI
On Saturday, Dec. 31, eight local football players participated in the annual Florida-Georgia All-Star game. The host venue for the epic match-up was Atlantic High School in Delray Beach.
The event gives senior athletes the opportunity to showcase their skills one last time, in hopes of drawing attention from college coaches to improve recruiting chances. The game has also developed into a rivalry and introduces players from out of the state, providing the chance for them to network with one another.
Local players invited to participate in the game were Dyllon Lyons, Nick Plesca and Javen Miles from Seminole Ridge High School; Robby DeJean and Ben Panitz from Palm Beach Central High School; Logan Robinson, the 2016 Lou Groza Award recipient, from Wellington High School; and Devonte Gillins and Treykavian Gilbert from Royal Palm Beach High School.
The Florida-Georgia All-Star committee also invited Wellington High School graduate and Florida-Georgia All-Star game alum kicker Alex Ng, the 2014 Lou Groza winner, as special teams coach. Ng has continued his football career at Valparaiso University as a kicker/punter.
“It was an honor to be entrusted to help coach special teams at this game,” Ng said. “Being a 19-year-old college sophomore and special teams coordinator next to experienced high school coaches was an amazing experience.”
Ng got the opportunity to work with Robinson to prepare for the game. “Being able to coach Logan was very fun despite the close age difference,” Ng said. “We have a good friendship and mutual respect when it comes to my football knowledge and his abilities.”
Robinson totaled a 49-yard punt average, with a long of 71 yards. “It was an honor to represent Wellington in this game,” Robinson said. “It meant everything, and this was the highlight of my year being able to play with people from this area.”
Much of Florida’s success was attributed to the performance in the trenches, which was largely occupied by the area players. Lyons from Seminole Ridge and DeJean from Palm Beach Central anchored the left side of the offensive line, opening up holes through the night for Team Florida’s ground game.
Defensively, it was Palm Beach Central’s Panitz at linebacker, Plesca from Seminole Ridge at defensive end, and Royal Palm Beach’s Gillins at corner back, making it a nightmare for the Georgia offense to move the ball. Florida went up 3-0 in the first quarter, but Georgia retaliated with a 70-yard touchdown run. Florida eventually took a 13-7 halftime lead, but Georgia recaptured the lead 14-13 in the third quarter.
Team Florida had to rally in the final minutes to defeat Team Georgia 22-14. Palm Beach Gardens quarterback Eli Matthews led the Florida offense nearly 100 yards after a long Georgia punt. The grind began at the Florida 1-foot line, sparking the 99.5-yard drive, which consumed most of the final four minutes, leaving only 24 seconds on the clock. The Florida drive took 12 plays and was capped by Matthews’ 1-yard touchdown run to lift Florida into the lead, 20-14.
There were 23 seconds remaining for Georgia to drive 96 yards for the go-ahead score, but an aggressive Florida defense sacked the Georgia quarterback in the end zone. The safety added two more points on the board for Florida, sealing the 22-14 win and keeping the trophy in Florida for the second straight year. Team Florida leads the series 4-1.
ABOVE: Seminole Ridge’s Nick Plesca breaks through the Georgia line to pursue the ball carrier.