The Wellington High School football team hosted rival Royal Palm Beach High School to open the regular season on Friday, Aug. 24, shutting out the Wildcats 38-0.
The win gives the Wolverines some momentum as they prepare to face state-ranked Vero Beach High School on Friday night.
“Vero is going to be our measuring stick,” said Wellington coach Tom Abel, now in his seventh year at Wellington (1-0). “The vibe in the locker room is good. We just have to stay level-headed and fine-tune things.”
Wellington’s first touchdown came quick on a 70-yard punt return by Mark Antony Richards, but it was nullified by a penalty. Three of Richards’ scores on the night would be snuffed out by fouls.
Royal Palm Beach (0-1) struggled to get things going on offense while the Wolverine unit was warming up. Matt Shannon connected with Tristan Abinet on a 28-yard touchdown pass. A kick by Morgan Suarez gave Wellington a first quarter 7-0 lead.
The Wildcats found some consistency moving the chains on offense during the ensuing possession but could not navigate through the turnovers and a blocked punt that eventually led to another Wolverine score to start the second quarter. This time, it was a six-yard run by Jadien Durant, and Wellington extended the advantage to 14-0.
The Wildcat defense was able to contain the Wellington offense before the half, and they forced a 25-yard Saurez field goal that capped a 75-yard drive to give the Wolverines a 17-0 lead. Royal Palm Beach had a chance to close the gap after picking off a Wellington pass but were denied a chance to turn the interception into points.
Durant and Richards would combine for three more scores in the second half to take the game out of reach for the Wildcats at 38-0. Royal Palm Beach had bouts of success offensively, but Wellington’s defense made it difficult for them to establish any consistency.
Abel said all three of his quarterbacks were able to see some playing time, which may help him evaluate who will get the starting role against a perennial power like Vero Beach on Friday. Defensively, the Wolverines looked impressive in their last two appearances, only giving up 6 points in two games. “It’s a matter of having the right guys in the right positions,” Abel said. “We have a great defensive staff.”
Richards had seven carries for 147 yards and two touchdowns. Durant recorded two scores. Running back Lakevious Simmons had nine rushes for 83 yards. Receiver Balitan Celestin reeled in four catches for 66 yards. The Wellington offense totaled 274 yards on the ground and 183 yards through the air.
Wellington will travel to Vero Beach on Friday, Aug. 31, while Royal Palm Beach will host Palm Beach Gardens High School. Both games start at 6 p.m.