Dwyer earns berth in Class 4A state championship game
Friday, December 11, 2009
by Cristina Ledra
PALM BEACH GARDENS -- Dwyer's Matt Elam proved why he is the two-time Palm Beach County Player of the Year on Friday night.
The senior running back/safety ran 23 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns, and returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown to lead the Panthers past Seffner-Armwood 41-15 in the Class 4A state semifinals at Blum Stadium.
Dwyer (13-1) will play Niceville for the Class 4A state championship at 1 p.m. next Saturday in Orlando.
Dwyer had a 21-0 lead at the half then Armwood (12-2) scored two quick touchdowns in the third quarter. One was the result of an interception, the other was a 6-yard run on the next possession that capped a 45-yard drive.
Dwyer, leading 21-15 entering the fourth quarter, then got a key interception from senior Mike Ruiz.
"That took senior leadership to get us out of that," Elam said.
Ruiz calmly walked to the Dwyer sideline, getting mauled by his teammates along the way after his 45-yard interception return sucked Armwood's rally dry.
"I just wanted to do anything to win," Ruiz said. "I just wanted to win so bad."
Two plays later Elam shed blockers as he stormed into the end zone, out of the end zone, and around to the Dwyer faithful, waving his arms because with 9:24 left in the game, he knew it was all but over and so did everyone else.
The Panthers played most of the game without linebacker Gerald Christian, their defensive leader, who had an ankle injury.
For Dwyer, the mission isn't over yet, but it was a big relief to get another step closer to a state title.
"A lot of our guys play two ways and theirs don't," Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said. "We started cramping up but they did a great job responding."