BY GENE NARDI
On Thursday, Sept. 8, the Royal Palm Beach High School varsity football team went on the road to face the state-ranked Oxbridge Academy, and the Wildcats were shut out by the Thunderwolves 41-0.
The Wildcats have earned a reputation for fielding a stingy defense, and it seemed early in the game that the trend would continue. Royal Palm Beach held the Thunderwolves at the goal line for a turnover on downs.
The game was tight through the first quarter, but the Wildcats struggled offensively. They moved the ball on occasion but could not find the fuel to fire on all cylinders, which forced the defense onto the field with little time for recovery.
The Wildcats were down only 7-0 going into the second quarter. However, penalties began to plague the Wildcats, adding to the frustration. With 7:35 left to play in the half, the Thunderwolves threw down the sideline; the Wildcat defense stopped play, believing that the receiver had stepped out of bounds, but the Oxbridge receiver continued to run to the end zone. The receiver crossed the goal line for the Thunderwolves’ second score of the game. Royal Palm Beach now faced a 13-0 deficit.
The Wildcat defense continued to keep their squad in the game, giving the offense the ball, but a continued struggle denied any chances of closing the margin. Another devastating blow hit the Royal Palm Beach special teams, when a 60-yard Oxbridge punt return put them in the Royal Palm Beach red zone late in the first half. Two plays later, the Thunderwolves punched in another score from 5 yards out. The touchdown gave Oxbridge a 19-0 lead.
The Royal Palm Beach offense needed to answer back, but a three-and-out forced a fatigued Wildcat defense back on the field. Signs of wear began to show, as the Thunderwolves struck again on a 35-yard scoring run. A two-point conversion extended the lead to 27-0 with less than two minutes to play in the half.
The Wildcat woes continued. The first play from scrimmage on the ensuing possession, a fumbled snap, was recovered by the Thunderwolves defense and returned 18 yards for the touchdown to make the score 34-0.
On the ensuing possession, the Wildcat offense showed signs of life when quarterback Austin Wallace connected on a few passes. Then running back Voshon Jackson broke through the middle of the Thunderwolves’ defense for a 25-yard gain, but the run served more as motivation than anything else, as time ran out to end the half.
Royal Palm Beach hoped to carry its late offensive surge into the second half, but an interception on the opening possession gave the Thunderwolves the ball inside the red zone. Oxbridge eventually found the end zone one more time to capitalize on the turnover and make it 41-0. That would be the last time Oxbridge would score.
The Royal Palm Beach defense clawed back to keep its team in the game, but could not click on offense for the remainder of the contest, which ended with a 41-0 win for the Thunderwolves.
Royal Palm Beach will continue the fight for its first win of the season when the Wildcats host Forest Hill High School on Friday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.
ABOVE: Wildcat kick returner Andy Angervil looks for running room for a big return.