BY GENE NARDI
The Palm Beach Central High School varsity Broncos traveled to Park Vista High School on Thursday, Oct. 30 in what was a de facto District 10-8A title game, topping the Cobras 23-16. It marked the third consecutive district championship for the Broncos, but the first for new coach Tino Ierulli.
Both sides struggled early on with several miscues on offense. The Broncos (6-3, 5-0) managed to rack up 65 yards in penalties midway through the second quarter. The teams had opportunities thrown at their feet in the first half to take an early lead, but it was the Broncos who figured it out and capitalized on Park Vista’s errors.
The first score came from the Broncos, in a third-and-33 situation, after a series of penalties pushed them back behind their own 20-yard line. Palm Beach Central quarterback Luis Peguero connected with receiver Darius Dent for a 77-yard touchdown pass. The pass escaped a sure interception by the Cobra secondary but shot through the grasp of the Cobra safety and right into the waiting hands of Dent, who then outran the remaining Cobra defenders for the score. A broken play on the point after gave the Broncos a 6-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Another costly error by the Cobras, a punt team high snap, gave the Broncos great field position, and they eventually scored on a Nick Petrone 30-yard field goal to extend Palm Beach Central’s lead to 9-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Bronco defense kept Park Vista (5-4, 4-1) from earning a first down until the second quarter, and continued to rattle the Cobra offense. Backup freshman quarterback Jordan Travis led the Broncos on a 67-yard drive in just five plays, capping it with a 33-yard touchdown throw to receiver Kemar Downer. Petrone’s kick extended the Bronco lead to 16-0.
Park Vista finally constructed a drive after an interception, and moved down to the Bronco 27-yard line, settling for a field goal to close the gap to 16-3 and end the first half.
The second half started with a series of punts, but it was the Cobras who mounted another drive that led to a 24-yard field goal to come within 10 at 16-6. Palm Beach Central responded with a 55-yard drive that included a big one-handed grab by Downer, as he tiptoed the sideline to make the catch. The reception led to a 4-yard touchdown run by running back Kerlvin Elise. Petrone’s kick extended the Bronco lead again 23-6.
The Cobras scored on a short run in the fourth quarter that closed the gap to 23-13. Park Vista drove close enough to grab another field goal and chipped away at the Bronco lead, 23-16, but it was all the offense the stubborn Palm Beach Central defense would allow. The Broncos held on to the lead, taking the 23-16 win and a third consecutive district crown.
“It means everything to the boys,” Ierulli said. “We faced a great football team tonight, and we knew we had to step up our game in the second half.”
Palm Beach Central will travel to Palm Beach Gardens High School on Friday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. to finish out the regular season. The Broncos then play host to the Gators in the first round of the playoffs on Friday, Nov. 14.
ABOVE: Cornerback Kemar Downer makes an interception at the end of the game to seal the Bronco win.