Palm Beach Central and Seminole Ridge continue rivalry in playoff game Friday night
Thursday, November 22, 2012
by Matt Porter
The drive between Palm Beach Central High and Seminole Ridge High takes 14 miles and three turns of the steering wheel. The schools were built less than 10 years ago to serve Wellington and Loxahatchee, two developing western suburbs cozily sprawling out next to each other. The football programs are a year apart in age.
Conditions are ideal for a rivalry. And what's sprouted up in the farm and horse country at the edge of the Everglades is one of the best in recent years.
"We love football here in the western communities," Palm Beach Central coach Rod Harris said.
Between his Broncos and the Hawks, there's a lot to love -- except when they face each other. They meet again in the Class 8A regional semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Seminole Ridge.
Ridge lost to Central in its winless 2005 inaugural season but not since. The Hawks are 7-1 against the Broncos, including a 17-7 win in last season's regional quarterfinals.
This year, both teams have won seven in a row.And both teams have a three-headed monster in the backfield.
Central seniors Ray Wilson and Lloyd Howard teamed with junior Tommy McDonald to put up 2,010 yards and 20 touchdowns. Ridge seniors Elie Turene and Silas Spearman and junior E.J. Elien have put up 2,346 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Both teams run behind beefy lines. Central junior left tackle Kc McDermott (6-6, 282), one of the top linemen in his class, rides with 6-3, 310 pound right tackle Nickedel Pierre. Ridge's Antonyo Woods and Roman Fernandez are a formidable combo, and the Hawks are tough to stop when they move into a jumbo set with two-star defensive linemen Kyle Shortridge (6-2, 280) and Jason Shepherd (6-1, 240).
Neither team looks to pass. However, Ridge's Zach DeCosta and Central's Kevin Bramhall, first-year junior starters, can keep defenses honest.
Ridge has the better defense, loaded with future Division I players such as Shortridge, a Purdue-committed defensive tackle, corner Omar Pierre-Louis and defensive end Shepherd (both Bowling Green-bound), and outside linebacker Rayfield Dixon and safety Mike Almonte.
"They have difference-makers on all three levels," Harris said. "They have a safety, Almonte, that's good. A cover corner (Pierre-Louis) who can shut down anyone. Dixon can rush the edge and he's great in space. Shortridge is big, physical and nasty. Shepherd is great against the run."
Central has the edge on special teams. Senior kicker Cameron Golob is a touchback machine and made a 50-yard field goal this month. Howard is a dangerous return man.
Both teams share one other quality: smoldering feelings over the game that wasn't. Their season-opener, which would have been played Aug. 31 at Central, was canceled.
The school district called it off after Tropical Storm Isaac, on its way to being a hurricane, drenched the western communities enough to cause severe flooding in Loxahatchee. Seminole Ridge missed five days of school and five practices.
Some Palm Beach Central players and coaches believe the Hawks lobbied for a cancellation. "We felt they didn't want to play us," Howard said this week.
Seminole Ridge players and coaches dismissed the charge as ridiculous, but don't expect them to forget it.
"We've got to show them we aren't soft," Shepherd said. "They didn't respect us. We're going get respect from them."
That's about as far as his coach, Matt Dickmann, will let him express that sentiment.
"I believe you show up, shut your mouth and let your pads do the talking," Dickmann said.
That discipline is a hallmark of Ridge's program, which is a backhanded compliment coming from some Broncos.
"They're a well-oiled machine," Wilson said of the Hawks. "They might not have all the best athletes, but they do their individual jobs really well."
Central, of course, has its own style.
"We are a get-in-your-face-all-night type of team," Wilson said. "We're relentless. With a little swagger."
Added Howard: "They have seven consecutive wins, but they haven't seen a Palm Beach Central team like us."
Palm Beach Central running backs Tommy McDonald, left, and Ray Wilson celebrate after a McDonald touchdown early this season. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)