BY GENE NARDI
The Royal Palm Beach High School football program is back on the gridiron, practicing for the fall season.
The Wildcats have been busy orchestrating their goal of repeating as the District 13-7A champions. The team posted a school best 11-2 finish, won the district title and played in the regional finals last year.
However, the stacked team graduated 15 seniors, many of them key players, with the Class of 2015. Offensive lineman Fredrick Johnson signed with the University of Florida, while running back Charles Perry went to the University of Miami. Shamar Jackson committed to the University of South Dakota, and junior quarterback Toddy Centieo transferred to William T. Dwyer High School.
But make no mistake, the Wildcats will be equally as dangerous on the gridiron this season.
“There’s continuity here, and the time in the weight room has been good,” head coach Willie Bueno told the Town-Crier. “The kids know what to expect, and our kids are going to be ready to go.”
Pahokee High School transfer quarterback Josh Carr will take charge of the offense this season. The senior brings athleticism to the team.
“We’re happy with Josh; we think he’s just as good as what we’ve had in the past,” Bueno said. “He’s probably the best athlete we’ve had as a quarterback since I’ve been here.”
Telvis Lawler has experience at the running back position and will lead the ground game for the Wildcats. “We expect him to be really good for us this season,” Bueno said.
Kyle Maschi will also see time in the backfield. Senior Da’von Brown, who was an All-County honoree last season, will play on both sides of the ball, giving Carr a solid pair of hands to throw to. He will also lead the defense in the cornerback spot.
Receiver Marlon Eugene is a key return starter for the Wildcats. The senior has offers from Oregon State and the University of Cincinnati.
On the defensive side, junior Zion Edmonds and Palm Beach Central High School transfer Adarius Dent will battle for the safety position, but both are likely to contribute to the cause. Dent has the ability to play quarterback as well. T.J. Willis will be playing in the other cornerback position.
The Wildcats parted ways with kicker Devin Wallace, a Lou Groza finalist, to graduation last year. Wallace was consistent in putting the ball into the back of the end zone last season.
“We have a couple of players battling for the kicking job, but Devin, in a way, was our biggest loss,” Bueno said.
Anchoring the return game for the Wildcats will be Hilton McClain Jr.
“He is one of the fastest top return players in the county,” Bueno said. “He is as fast as anybody.”
Although the Wildcats are in one of the toughest districts in the county, with Dwyer and West Boca High School, Royal Palm Beach looks poised to make another run for the district championship. With the experience in the returning players, they seem to have the chemistry to challenge for the title.
The Wildcats open up with a preseason game Friday, Aug. 21, hosting nationally ranked Miami Central High School at 7 p.m. The regular-season opener is at home against Glades Central High School at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 28.
ABOVE: Running back Kyle Maschi protects the ball as he runs up the center.