Palm Beach Central Caps Special And Historic Football Season

Palm Beach Central players on the field after their season-ending loss to Apopka in the Class 4M state semifinal Dec. 2.

This fall’s Palm Beach Central High School football team will go down as the greatest football team in school history. Under the leadership of first-year head coach Kevin Thompson, the Bronco football team played like champions, and the squad deserves to be labeled as champions.

“This year, we won the Wellington Cup, repeated as district champs and won a regional championship for the first time in school history,” Thompson said. “I give lots of credit for our success to our 26 seniors and a great group of assistant coaches. We all worked together and were on the same page.”

Palm Beach Central was the only team from Palm Beach County this season to advance to a state semifinal and was the last team in Palm Beach County to be eliminated from the Florida High School Athletic Association’s (FHSAA) playoffs.

While Palm Beach Central’s season came to an end at home on Friday, Dec. 2, when the Broncos lost 27-24 to the Apopka Blue Darters in the Class 4M state semifinal, it was a game where Palm Beach Central dominated much of the contest.

Unfortunately, the Broncos were unable to stop Apopka on its final possession, as the Blue Darters marched down the field for the go-ahead and game-winning touchdown, which was scored with roughly two minutes left in the game.

Recapping the game, it was scoreless after the first quarter, and Palm Beach Central led 14-6 at halftime. The Broncos extended their lead to 21-12 after three quarters. But in the all-important fourth quarter, the Blue Darters outscored the Broncos, 15-3, to win by three points.

Thompson said that his senior leadership played a major role in the team’s success this year. “My seniors helped me grow as a coach,” he said. “Our seniors understood the importance of everybody being team-oriented.”

Besides the season-ending loss to Apopka, the only other loss on the season was a 35-14 loss at home to Pahokee back on Sept. 16. That loss was a pivotal learning experience for the Broncos.

“That loss taught our players about humility, and it stayed with them for the entire season,” Thompson said.

Throughout the season, the offense was prolific, and the defense was stingy. The offense averaged more than 49 points a game, while the defense allowed 15 points a game.

The statistical and team leaders on offense were quarterback Ahmad Haston, running back Tyler Young and wide receiver Javorian Wimberly. Thompson also has high praise for his offensive line, which opened up holes for Young to run through and gave time for Haston to pass the ball to receivers like Wimberly, Nedrick Boldin and Luby Maurice Jr.

Haston, who will play college football next year at the University of Massachusetts, played like a seasoned veteran throughout the season.

“I was lucky to have him as my quarterback,” Thompson said. “He’s a very humble and smart player who has lots of integrity.”

Thompson praised Young for his team-first attitude throughout the season.

“He wanted to play as a wide receiver this year, but the team needed him to play running back, so he did, which was a huge help,” Thompson said. “It’s not easy running between the tackles, but he did. He got better throughout the season.”

Wimberly, who will play football next fall at the University of Central Michigan, was productive as a receiver, even though he was troubled by the injury bug.

“He had a toe injury for most of the season, which hindered his play, but he’s a tough kid and fought through the struggle throughout the season,” Thompson said.

The leader of the Bronco defense was safety Justin Bostic, who also returned punts, kickoffs and played on offense from time to time.

“Having Justin on the field was like having another Ahmad on the team,” Thompson said. “Justin was the ‘quarterback’ of the defense. On the field, he was always early to show up for practice. Off the field, he has great grades, is a great person and has a great personality. He will be missed. He will be attending Florida A&M next year to play football.”

As a way to honor and recognize Thompson’s work as Palm Beach Central’s head coach, he was named as the recipient of the Sam Budnyk Coach of the Year Award, which is given out annually to the top prep football coach in Palm Beach County. The award is named in honor of the legendary Sam Budnyk, the former longtime head football coach at Cardinal Newman High School. The award was presented to Thompson on Monday, Dec. 5 at this year’s Lou Groza Awards banquet, conducted by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission.

Thompson is the first-ever head coach from Palm Beach Central to win the award. At that same banquet, Palm Beach Central was a finalist for the 2022 Team of the Year in Palm Beach County. The winner of that award was Cardinal Newman, which had an 11-1 record, eventually losing in the regional final of its FHSAA bracket.

While Thompson and his coaches will be looking to fill the void left by 26 graduating seniors, the football cupboard is not bare at Palm Beach Central. Next year, Thompson and his coaching staff will be looking for big contributions from many players, such as wide receiver Tony Williams, defensive end Isaac Antoine, defensive back Mikey Gayle, wide receiver Nedrick Boldin and offensive lineman Anthony Sriboonlue, among others.

According to Thompson, off-season weightlifting for next fall’s football team will commence on Jan. 9 and spring practice will start in late April.