BY GENE NARDI
On Friday, Oct. 21, the Palm Beach Central High School football team traveled to Jupiter High School for a must-win district game, and orchestrated a second-half surge that deflated the Warriors 31-24.
The win keeps the Broncos in contention to clinch a playoff berth, but the team must win again on the road against Palm Beach Gardens High School this week. The Bronco victory marks the third straight.
Jupiter quickly got on the board to take a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. The Broncos fired back on their second possession to score the equalizer. Palm Beach Central quarterback Nick Atkins rifled a 7-yard touchdown pass to receiver Tyler Baker to tie it at 7-7 just a minute into the second quarter.
Kicker Adam Virgili converted a 27-yard field goal on the Broncos’ next possession to give his team a 10-7 lead midway through the quarter. Jupiter then put together a 13-play drive that consumed the clock, capping it with a 39-yard field goal to tie the game at 10-10 to end the first half.
The Palm Beach Central defense had difficulty containing the Jupiter running attack in the third quarter. The Warriors again chewed away at the game clock, eliminating nearly 10 minutes of the third quarter in marching 80 yards. The Warriors capped their drawn-out drive with quarterback Alex Piccirili’s 1-yard keeper up the middle for the go-ahead score 17-10. The Broncos struggled to move the chains on offense in the third quarter, giving Jupiter possession.
It was near the conclusion of the third quarter when the Broncos found the surge they needed. A physical Bronco defense forced two Jupiter fumbles. The first was when the Broncos recovered the ball at the Jupiter 20-yard line. Running back Anthony Wynds powered into the end zone from 3 yards out. Virgili’s point after tied the game at 17-17 with 8:01 left to play in the game.
Nick Carroccio recovered the second Jupiter fumble, giving the offense possession on the Jupiter 40-yard line. It wasn’t long before Wynds drove in the next score, this time from 14 yards out. Virgili’s kick lifted Palm Beach Central to 24-17 over the Warriors with 6:32 left on the clock.
“Our defense stepped up for us,” Bronco head coach Tino Ierulli. “That third quarter really killed us, and we gave up 45 yards in penalties.”
The Broncos extended the lead, sealing the win with just two minutes remaining. Running back Lakevious Simmons took a handoff to the outside and scampered in from 15 yards out. Virgili’s kick extended the lead to 31-17. The touchdown capped a 75-yard, five-play ground attack featuring Wynds and Simmons. Jupiter did manage to score as time ran out to close the gap to 31-24, but it was too little, too late, and the Broncos held on for the win.
Wynds totaled 239 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. “If we clean up our mistakes and eliminate the penalties, we’ll beat any team in this area,” Ierulli said. “We have to put four quarters together.”
The Broncos have one more regular season game remaining. They travel to Palm Beach Gardens on Friday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. With a win over the Gators, Palm Beach Central will clinch a playoff berth as the district runner-up.
ABOVE: Palm Beach Central receiver Jeremiah Anderson leaves his feet in an attempt to reel in a touchdown pass.