Bronco Football Squad Advances To State Semifinal Game

Bronco coach Kevin Thompson addresses his team during a timeout earlier this season.

The Palm Beach Central High School varsity football team continues to make history. In recent weeks, the Broncos have won a pair of Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) Class 4M, Region 3 home playoff games against Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Nov. 18 and Palm Beach Gardens High School on Nov. 25. In both games, Palm Beach Central (12-1) fell behind 10-0 and then rallied to win.

On Friday, Nov. 18, the Broncos outscored Stoneman Douglas, 55-23, but it took a second-half surge to secure the victory.

“Against Stoneman Douglas in the second half, we didn’t allow any points, and we scored 35,” PBCHS head football coach Kevin Thompson said.

On Friday, Nov. 25, the Broncos came from behind, again, to defeat Palm Beach Gardens, 14-10. The victory against the Gators was historic. Palm Beach Central’s football team had never won a regional final game in program history.

A year ago, the Broncos reached the regional final, but they were trounced at home by Treasure Coast High School, 35-0. Thompson said that last year’s loss to Treasure Coast has served as a motivator for this year’s team.

At this year’s regional final, the Broncos prevailed against the visiting Gators, in a rematch of a regular season game when Palm Beach Central soundly defeated Palm Beach Gardens, 35-14, back on Oct. 21.

“In high school football, it’s not easy defeating a team twice in the same regular season,” Thompson noted.

In this year’s regional final, the Gators took a 10-0 lead based on a first-quarter field goal and a second-quarter pick-six by Palm Beach Gardens defensive back Desean Butler, who intercepted a pass from Bronco quarterback Ahmad Haston at Palm Beach Central’s 42-yard line and returned it for a touchdown.

That 10-point deficit woke up the Broncos’ offense. With less than three minutes left in the first half, Haston threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Nedrick Boldin. Palm Beach Central placekicker Ethan Dagostino’s PAT cut the deficit to three, and the Gators led 10-7 at halftime.

On the opening drive of the second half, Haston led his team on a hunt for the go-ahead touchdown, capped by his own one-yard-run to make the score 14-10.

The game was not decided until the Gators’ final drive, when Palm Beach Central safety Justin Bostic intercepted a Gardens’ pass with less than a minute to play in the game. The Bronco offense ran out the clock, which preserved the 14-10 victory.

Thompson expected the game against Palm Beach Gardens to be a difficult one to win. “We knew it was going to be a tough game, and it was,” he said.

Now, Palm Beach Central will host the Blue Darters from Apopka High School (10-3) on Friday, Dec. 2 in the Class 4M state semifinal. These are unchartered waters for the Palm Beach Central football program, and Thompson, who is completing his first year as head coach for the Broncos.

“Our players are ready to play this game,” Thompson said. “They didn’t want to practice this week. They just want to play the game.”

Thompson added that his top players must lead by example, and that starts with his quarterback.

“Ahmad needs to play like Superman,” Thompson said. “He has to be the best that he can be against Apopka, which has an SEC-like defensive front.”

That means Palm Beach Central’s offensive line must provide maximum protection for Haston.

“I need our offensive line to give Ahmad at least four seconds to pass the ball,” Thompson said.

Don’t be surprised to see Haston use his legs throughout the game to run at key points.

“Ahmad has the green light to run whenever he sees room to run,” Thompson said. “We have talked with him about that throughout the season. He’s a talented athlete who can run and pass.”

According to Thompson, other players on his roster who are expected to play a key role for the Broncos include Justin Bostic, Javorian Wimberly, Nedrick Boldin, Tony Williams, Tyler Young and Luby Maurice Jr. There’s also a chance that the team’s leading running back from last year, Aldorson Estinvil, who has been injured all season, may be healthy enough to play in the game.

As head coach, Thompson knows that he needs his players to respect the fact that this is the biggest game of their lives as football players, but to also realize that it’s just another football game. “We must not try to play outside of ourselves,” he said.

According to Thompson, the countdown to the game on Friday begins when his players get dismissed from class at 2:55 p.m. The game’s kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

“We will meet in the cafeteria for a pre-game meal, then get taped, have final meetings and start warming up on the field,” Thompson said.

The winner of the Palm Beach Central-Apopka state semifinal will play the winner of the other Class 4M state semifinal between Miami’s Christopher Columbus High School and Ocoee High School for the Class 4M state championship. That game will be held at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale on either Dec. 15, 16 or 17. The exact details have yet to be announced.