BY GENE NARDI
The Palm Beach Central High School football team recently began its spring training. The Florida High School Athletic Association allows Florida high schools 20 days of spring practice, including a spring game. The brief spring season gives teams an opportunity to evaluate players in preparation for the fall season, when students return from summer break.
Last season, the Palm Beach Central High School football team finished the regular season with a 2-8 record that left many wondering how the Broncos would recover from not making the postseason for the first time since 2011.
Head coach Santino Ierulli enters his third year leading the Broncos program. In his first year as coach, the Broncos won the District 10-8A championship, making it the team’s third in a row. The following year, Palm Beach Central was hit by 36 departing seniors, leaving many spaces to be filled. “We had a lot of sophomores starting last year,” Ierulli said. “We were young and didn’t have that experience, but we gained it through the season.”
The Broncos upset Royal Palm Beach in the final game of last season. “Beating Royal Palm in the last game really did good by us,” Ierulli said. “It really showed in the off-season the way these kids worked. We have a lot of returning players with confidence.”
Among the talent that the Broncos will rely on will be Matt Smith in the quarterback position. “Matt started at safety last year for us,” Ierulli told the Town-Crier. “He is a smart kid; he’s strong and is looking really good.”
The running back who has been turning the most heads is John I. Leonard High School transfer Anthony Wynds. “He’s big and runs like a horse,” Ierulli said of Wynds.
Most of the line returns for the Broncos. Matt Miller will snap for Smith at center, and Michael Garofalo, 6-foot-4 and 277 pounds, will anchor the line at tackle.
Newcomer defensive end Nick Johnson and team captain/outside linebacker Ben Panitz will lead the defense with their experience. Johnson is a transfer from Georgia who has grabbed the attention of Marshall, Florida Atlantic and Western Kentucky universities.
“Panitz is our big play guy on the outside for our defense,” Ierulli said.
Cam Sheedy returns and will lock down the middle of the defense at inside linebacker.
The Broncos were young last season but return most of the starting squad, and that experience is certain to show through as they continue to develop. The Broncos will wrap up their spring campaign hosting Boynton Beach High School on Friday, May 20 at 7 p.m.
“I’m really excited about this group of kids,” Ierulli said. “They are really motivated.”
They also compete in camps and seven-on-seven tournaments through the summer in efforts to make an easier transition into the fall season. The Broncos will be tested early in the fall with a kickoff classic pre-season game against juggernaut Fort Pierce Central High School.
ABOVE: Head coach Tino Ierulli gives direction for the defense during practice.