The Palm Beach Central High School football team hosted Palm Beach Gardens High School in a District 9-8A match-up on Friday, Oct. 27 and shut out the Gators to win the district title with an unbeaten record.
“These young men have fought through adversity the last two seasons,” Palm Beach Central coach Tino Ierulli said. “They’ve bonded together and committed to the program, and that’s exactly what’s happened.”
The Broncos (6-2, 4-0) did not hesitate from the start. They relied on the running and catching ability of running back C.J. Stewart. The junior back scampered off for a 25-yard touchdown run on the Broncos’ first possession of the game. The score lifted Palm Beach Central to a 7-0 lead.
Palm Beach Gardens (3-5, 1-3) did respond with a field goal attempt, but it was blocked by a ferocious Bronco defense that made it a chore for the Gators to move the ball all night long. The aggressive and physical play of the Bronco defense seemed to throw off the rhythm of the Gator offense, as passes appeared off target and often landed incomplete. The lone touchdown was all the Broncos needed to maintain the lead at halftime.
Both teams battled early in the third quarter, but it was Stewart who broke through for the Broncos a second time. With 2:24 left in the quarter, he jumped up for a pass from quarterback Nick Atkins, then leaped into the end zone to extend the Palm Beach Central lead to 14-0.
In the fourth quarter, the Gators had difficulty controlling possession of the ball, fumbling often. Late in the game, Palm Beach Gardens had an opportunity to close in on the deficit, driving into the Bronco red zone, but another fumble turned over possession to the Broncos.
It did not take long for Palm Beach Central to run out the remaining minutes on the clock to seal the 14-0 shutout, and claim the District 9-8A title.
“I hope every week, we’re picked to lose, on my life I do,” Ierulli explained. “It just feeds these boys right here. We’ve had two shutouts in a row; these kids are hungry and tired of not being respected.”
Stewart had 22 carries for 141 yards, one rushing touchdown and one reception for a score. Atkins completed three of 14 passes for 43 yards and one touchdown.
“Every game, we’ve said it’s a state championship game,” Ierulli said. “So, we’re not going in taking any game lightly. We’re one hundred percent focused.”
Palm Beach Central will host John I. Leonard High School for the final regular season game Friday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m., and will then move on to host the District 10-8A runner-up in the first round of post-season play.