By Gene Nardi
The Royal Palm Beach High School varsity football team hosted District 13-7A rival William T. Dwyer on Saturday, Nov. 3 in a must-win game for both teams, with the fifth-ranked Wildcats falling to the third-ranked Panthers 21-16.
The loss prevented the fifth-ranked Wildcats (4-2 district, 5-3 overall) from advancing into post-season play. The much-anticipated match-up took place before a capacity crowd and provided everything expected in a district rival contest.
After Royal Palm Beach punted on its first series, Dwyer quickly went up 14-0, scoring on their first two possessions. Both of the Panthers’ scores came from big pass plays of 48 and 70 yards. Neither team could seem to establish a consistent running game. The Wildcats managed a 22-yard field goal in the second quarter by kicker Tyler Bugeja to close the gap 14-3.
Turnovers haunted the Wildcats throughout the contest. After driving down to the Dwyer 27 yard line, Royal Palm Beach quarterback Ant McGrew fumbled, giving the Panthers possession.
The Wildcat defense held Dwyer to a punt situation from just outside their red zone. Wildcat defensive back Jimmy Moreland blocked the Dwyer punt, recovered it and returned it 22 yards for the touchdown, chipping away at the Panther lead to make the score 14-10. Dwyer managed to respond with another 22-yard touchdown pass, bringing the score to 21-10 to close out the half.
The second half began when Royal Palm Beach forced Dwyer to punt, starting on their own 9 yard line and sustaining a solid drive into Dwyer territory but turning over the ball with an interception on the Panther 12 yard line. The Wildcats mounted what appeared to be a comeback as they started off the fourth quarter, when running back Demarcus Holloway ran it in from the 4 yard line for the score. The 2-point attempt failed, leaving the score 21-16.
Dwyer would eat up the clock with a final drive deep into Royal Palm Beach territory, only to give the Wildcats back the ball on the 14 yard line with 34 seconds left on the clock. Down by 5 points, the Wildcats managed one first down on the short drive to move the chains, but ran out of time on the attempted winning drive.
Moreland stood out defensively with the 22-yard blocked-punt return for a touchdown and a diving interception. Holloway is credited with one score, and McGrew was 13 of 27 for 160 yards and two interceptions.
Above: RPB’s Zeke Edmunds gets a hand on Dwyer quarterback Robert Nittolo.