BY GENE NARDI
On Friday, Nov. 28, the Royal Palm Beach High School varsity football team traveled to Fort Lauderdale to take on host St. Thomas Aquinas in the Class 7A regional final, and fell to the Raiders 52-7.
The Wildcat fans traveled down and packed the stands to support their team.
The top-ranked Raiders never allowed Royal Palm Beach to get going on offense, and any time the Wildcats did find a rhythm, it was abruptly ended by the stellar Raider defense or a Wildcat turnover. Royal Palm Beach lost the ball often, totaling five turnovers.
The first came on Royal Palm Beach’s initial possession, when quarterback Toddy Centeio was sacked and then fumbled. St. Thomas (12-1) needed only two plays from scrimmage to run 23 yards for the opening score of the game.
Shamar Jackson gave the Wildcats life as he provided a big return on the ensuing kickoff to the 40-yard line. Royal Palm Beach’s offense sputtered moving the chains, and eventually punted. The Wildcat defense caused a Raider fumble recovered by Xavier Pratt.
Royal Palm Beach fell short on a fourth-and-2 fake punt attempt. On the Raiders’ ensuing drive, they scored on a 60-yard touchdown run to take a 14-0 lead only six minutes into the game. St. Thomas eventually sat on a 52-0 halftime lead.
The Wildcats struggled to stop St. Thomas and could not produce any points until late in the second half, when Centeio connected with senior Cody Taylor on a 22-yard touchdown pass. Devin Wallace’s kick made it 52-7. Running back (and Miami commit) Charles Perry finished the game with 89 yards on 16 carries.
The loss ended a seven-game win streak for the Wildcats, but in the end, they accomplished the best overall record in school history at 11-2 and earned the District 13-7A championship, winning two playoff games, against Fort Lauderdale and against Atlantic, to get to the regional final contest.
ABOVE: Wildcat running back Shamar Jackson finds space to the outside.