Palm Beach Central rallies to beat Palm Beach Gardens in playoff opener
Friday, November 16, 2012
by Jeff Greer
Midway through the fourth quarter, Palm Beach Gardens running back Tommy Monday snuck through a crease and broke loose for a 24-yard touchdown that would have all but sealed the Class 8A regional quarterfinal. Palm Beach Central's defensive players were stunned, its coaching staff quiet.
A penalty -- illegal motion -- brought the score back. There was no way of knowing at the time it'd end up being the game's turning point.
After trailing by nine points early in the fourth quarter, Palm Beach Central (8-2) stormed back to collect its first playoff win in program history and beat Palm Beach Gardens 27-19 in front of soaked-but-entertained crowd.
"These kids stuck together the whole time and never once gave up," Central coach Rod Harris said. "Every time we play this team it's tooth and nail, hard and physical."
Lloyd Howard fittingly came up with the game-ending interception, but it was the diminutive Palm Beach Central senior's offense that made his impact so great.
Howard ran for 170 yards on 23 carries. His 32-yard carry in the fourth quarter led to Central's second touchdown of the night, an 11-yard pass from Kevin Bramhall to Nick Cassandra.
Then Howard's 24-yard sprint down the sideline set up Cameron Golob's 44-yard go-ahead field goal. Teammate Tommy McDonald made Gardens' comeback task more difficult with a 60-yard rumble with two minutes left. McDonald had a big night, too, finishing with 115 yards and two touchdowns of his own.
"It was getting a little bleak there," Harris said. "We scored to go up 20-19, that was huge. (Howard) was playing lights out, and then Tommy McDonald iced the game."
Palm Beach Gardens (7-3) moved the ball into Central territory with a chance to tie the game during the game's final drive, but quarterback JP Caruso's final pass skipped off a receiver's hands and into Howard's.
But Caruso can't be to blame for the Gators' loss. His 46-yard bullet to AJ Shipman tied the game at 7. His 2-yard push near the beginning of the third quarter gave Gardens its first lead of the game after a 39-yard bomb to Frank Brown.
Monday made ShaCorey Foster's third-quarter interception loom even larger with a 6-yard touchdown, which pushed Gardens ahead by nine. But penalties and missed opportunities let Central back in it. The Gators committed nine penalties for 70 yards, but none stood out more than the illegal motion that brought back what would have been Monday's second TD.
Now Palm Beach Central plays Seminole Ridge in the regional semifinal, more than two months after their regular-season matchup was canceled because of Hurricane Isaac.