The Palm Beach Central High School football team traveled across town Monday, Oct. 2 to take on rival Wellington High School in a key District 9-8A match-up and won 34-20, reclaiming the Mayor’s Cup before a capacity crowd.
The Wolverines had retained the cup for the past three years, but it will now find a place at Palm Beach Central. This year, Wellington honored first responders prior to kickoff, and Mayor Anne Gerwig was on hand for the ceremony.
The two teams combined for more than 768 yards of total offense in a must-win contest for each to remain in contention for post-season play.
The first quarter started rough for both offensive units, but an early fourth-down attempt by the Wolverines deep in their own territory gave Palm Beach Central an opportunity to take an early lead. The Broncos punched in the game’s first score when running back C.J. Stewart scored from a yard out. However, the point-after attempt was no good, and the Broncos had a 6-0 lead.
Stewart logged his second score on the night from 7 yards out, this time taking in a pass from quarterback Nick Atkins. The Broncos made the two-point conversion attempt to extend the lead to 14-0.
“The kid is a workhorse,” Bronco coach Tino Ierulli said of Stewart. “He does it right in the classroom, he does it right in the community, and he does it right on the field for us.”
Wellington, missing its two starting quarterbacks due to injury, struggled offensively through the air, so the team relied on a ground attack. During the second quarter, the Wolverines drove to the Bronco 29-yard line, only to come up short.
Wellington’s Jadien Durant finally got the Wolverines on the scoreboard when he returned a Bronco punt 55 yards for a touchdown, but the kick fell short. Wellington closed in on the deficit 20-6 and appeared to gain some momentum, but it was snuffed out when an onside kick attempt was caught and returned for a touchdown by the Broncos, giving them a commanding 26-6 lead at the end of the half.
The Wolverines opened their first possession capping a 70-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run by quarterback Mike Massamino. Wellington converted for two points to close the gap to 26-14 in the third quarter.
Palm Beach Central responded with an immediate score on its next possession to increase the Bronco lead to 34-14. The Wolverines struggled defensively while the Broncos put up 284 yards through the air, led by Atkins, who completed 19 of 30 passes.
The Wolverines got on the board again late in the game to chip into the Bronco lead at 34-20, but the Broncos ran out the remaining minutes on the clock.
Wellington could not stop the Bronco offense most of the night.
“We’re dealing with adversity right now,” Wellington coach Tom Abel said. “If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that I would have both quarterbacks out, I would have told you you’re crazy, but I still believe we’re a great football team. I’m proud of these boys.”
The Broncos are 4-2 and 1-0 in the district this season. “It feels really good,” Ierulli said. “I’m very proud of the offense. Right now is when everything counts during district time.”
Wellington fell to 2-4 (0-2 in district play). Both teams continue district competition this week. Palm Beach Central travels to take on unbeaten Seminole Ridge High School, while Wellington hosts Jupiter High School.