The Royal Palm Beach High School football squad hosted district foe William T. Dwyer High School on Friday, Oct. 11 and fell to the Panthers 28-21. Dwyer put up 18 second-half points to take away a 21-10 halftime Royal Palm Beach lead.
The contest went down to the final play, after Royal Palm Beach (3-3) found themselves trailing 28-21 when the Panthers scored to take the lead off a 37-yard pick six by safety Kamari Burns.
“He made a great play, Burns, at the end; both good players made a play on a throw, and he made the most of it,” Royal Palm Beach head coach Davis Lowery said.
Wildcat quarterback Peyton Mainolfi launched a 55-yard pass to the Dwyer end zone that initially appeared to be the equalizing touchdown in the final seconds, but the receiver was unable to hold on to the deflected ball.
Mainolfi led the Wildcats to three touchdowns in the first half to secure a 21-10 halftime lead. The first came on an 86-yard touchdown pass to receiver Derrick Cruikshank. The standout receiver made a leaping grab, then broke a tackle to sprint to the end zone to give Royal Palm Beach an early 7-0 advantage. Dwyer responded to tie the game at 7-7. Mainolfi next found Ketron Hadley in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass to go up 14-7. The Panthers would add a field goal to close the gap to 14-10, but the Wildcats punched right back.
On the ensuing kick return, Cruikshank sprinted down the sideline for an apparent touchdown, but it was ruled out of bounds by the officials. The play provided the Wildcats with prime real estate to add to their total. With seconds left in the half, Mainolfi connected with Dishon Francis on a quick slant for a touchdown to take a 21-10 lead into the locker room.
The second half was not as favorable for the Wildcats, who surrendered 18 points, despite a couple of defensive goal line stands. The Panthers consumed six minutes off the third quarter clock and capped a 65-yard drive with a fourth-and-goal quarterback sneak to punch in a score. Dwyer also made a two-point conversion to close in on the Royal Palm Beach lead 21-18.
The Royal Palm Beach squad tried to add to their lead with a 40-yard Dominick Grosso field goal in the fourth quarter, but the attempt was just outside the sticks. Dwyer responded with a big 48-yard pass play that put them inside the Wildcat five-yard line, but a strong goal line stand forced a short Panther field goal to tie the game at 21-21 with under three minutes to play.
The Wildcats went to work, moving the chains to midfield. Mainolfi saw an open receiver, but Burns leaped in front to steal the pass and returned it to the house for the go-ahead score, 28-21. Under the pressure of the clock, with less than a minute remaining, Mainolfi again moved the Wildcats beyond midfield. On the final play, he launched a hail Mary into the end zone, which fell incomplete.
Mainolfi had 21 yards rushing and threw for three touchdowns with just under 300 yards through the air.
“We played better up front on offense. Our defense played well, especially at key times on the goal line,” Lowery said. “We work daily at making plays with more consistency; it’s important for the pace of our development.”
Royal Palm Beach is on the road Friday, Oct. 18 against Martin County High School. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.