American Heritage's defense stops Dwyer
Thursday, November 08, 2012
by Jeff Greer
Thursday night's "Palm Beach County Championship," as dubbed by host American Heritage, couldn't have ended more fittingly: With the ball in the hands of a defensive player.
Senior safety Xavier Swinton came down with the game-ending interception to seal the top-ranked Stallions' 13-7 slugfest victory over fourth-ranked Dwyer in front of one of the largest crowds a county game has seen this season.
Heritage (10-0) produced just 230 total yards of offense and lost 105 yards to penalties, but the Stallions' defense, which has allowed just 49 points this season, forced two turnovers and made four fourth-down stops to stifle a Dwyer team searching for answers as the regular season draws to a close.
"Our defense came through in the end," Swinton said. "As soon as we got scheduled to play Dwyer, we had it circled on our schedule. We wanted the perfect season."
The game's biggest play in a contest full of fireworks came in the third quarter, when senior American Heritage linebacker Evan Harvey, who transferred to Heritage from Dwyer before the season, sacked and stripped Dwyer quarterback Rob Nittolo at Dwyer's 1-yard line. Harvey's teammate, Rondarian Bell, pounced on the loose ball and gave Heritage a crucial 10-0 lead.
After the turnover, Dwyer (8-2) turned to sophomore quarterback Daniel Parr, who confidently led a 71-yard scoring drive and capped it with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Ezra Saffold. Parr was 5-of-5 on the drive, connecting with junior receiver Clint Stephens three times for 36 yards, and it appeared Dwyer had finally figured out American Heritage's stingy defense.
But Heritage didn't budge, instead adding a Greg Joseph field goal to extend its lead. On its final drive, Dwyer converted three third downs and one fourth down, but the final fourth-and-10 ended with Swinton's interception.
"I wouldn't expect anything else but a tough game," Heritage coach Stacy Sizemore said. "(Dwyer) is a good team. They're well-coached. They're fundamentally sound."
Dwyer's strong defensive line held All-American running back Greg Bryant to 69 yards on 18 carries. But the Panthers struggled all night on offense, managing just 71 yards rushing as a team.
Nittolo was 4-of-10 for 63 yards and an interception. Parr finished 8-of-14 for 71 yards, one touchdown and one interception, but neither quarterback had much time to throw in critical spots.
Dwyer has lost two of its past three, and didn't look as sharp offensively as it did in last week's must-win 21-16 victory over Royal Palm Beach.
"We have more questions coming out of this game than answers," Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said. "They're playing us five people in the box and we can't run the football. That's a real problem no matter who you're playing."