Friday night lights are back, but last week’s much-anticipated match-up between two of the county’s top teams, Palm Beach Central High School and William T. Dwyer High School was cut short in the fourth quarter due to a shooting incident that occurred on campus, near the football stadium, at approximately 9 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 17.
Authorities later determined that the shooting was not random, but rather a specific, targeted act of violence, and the suspects and victims involved do not have any known affiliation with Palm Beach Central High School, its students or staff.
The game kicked off at 7 p.m. after days of hype on social media and local news outlets as being the biggest game on Friday night. Initially, the match started slow for both teams, as they struggled to move the ball. The Broncos were marred by penalties through the second half, while Dwyer struggled to maintain possession of the ball.
The Broncos began to acquire some steam on offense, while their defense continued to derail the Panthers. The first recovered fumble by the Broncos came after they went three and out. The change of possession gave Palm Beach Central the ball on the Dwyer 30-yard line. The Broncos had to settle for a field goal attempt that sailed just wide, keeping the game scoreless.
With 4:34 remaining in the first quarter, Dwyer committed a second turnover, giving Palm Beach Central possession at the Panther 35-yard line. Penalties struck the Bronco offense and pushed them back to mid-field. The Dwyer defense forced a Bronco punt. William Hamilton swarmed the Dwyer punt returner in the end zone to notch the game’s first score, giving the Broncos a 2-0 lead.
Dwyer appeared riddled by the Bronco defense and had a failed fake punt attempt to start the second quarter. It was there that the Bronco offense clicked. Quarterback Michael Moreland connected with receiver Gen’Tarius Oliver on a 40-yard pass to the Dwyer 10-yard line. The play put the Broncos in a key position to extend the lead, but a penalty nullified a 10-yard touchdown run.
While the Palm Beach Central defense continued to snuff out any Dwyer offensive attack, the Bronco offense regrouped. This time, receiver Bryan Robinson reeled in a 50-yard pass to the Dwyer 3-yard line that eventually set up a 25-yard Tanner Nairn field goal to bring the Bronco lead to 5-0 at the end of the first half.
Dwyer later added a field goal in the third quarter to cut the Bronco lead to 5-3. However, with 8:41 remaining in the contest, officials had to end the game due to the widespread panic just moments after the sound of gunfire erupted into the night.
Nearly 3,000 had to be evacuated quickly by School District Police and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. The public safety response was swift and effective, according to later reports. All school activities for the remainder of the weekend were canceled. The investigation is ongoing, and district authorities will focus on other possible security measures needed for high school athletic events.
The Broncos travel to Atlantic High School for their first regular season game, now scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 25 at 5 p.m.