Marino-led Pal­metto is peak­ing at the right time

The Bradenton Herald - - Sports - BY MON­ROE ROARK Her­ald cor­re­spon­dent

The Pal­metto High foot­ball team walked onto the home field of un­de­feated Pinel­las Park on Fri­day night and didn’t flinch.

The sev­enth-seeded Tigers jumped to a big early lead and kept their foot on the gas, cruis­ing to a 38-21 win over the No. 2 Pa­tri­ots in a Class 7A-Re­gion 3 quar­ter­fi­nal.

It’s the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive sea­son Pal­metto trav­eled to Pinel­las County and beat the Pa­tri­ots in the first round of the play­offs.

Pal­metto (8-3) will con­tinue its play­off run next week with a trip to sixth-seeded Val­rico Bloom­ing­dale, a 45-8 win­ner over Fort My­ers Riverdale.

Cor­rian Brown’s 9-yard touch­down run mid­way through the fourth quar­ter made the score 38-7 against a Pinel­las Park team that av­er­aged 47 points a game dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son.

The Pa­tri­ots picked up two touch­downs in the fi­nal 2:09 with the help of a 63-yard kick­off re­turn and a Pal­metto fum­ble.

“It was all about the de­fense,” Pal­metto head coach Dave Marino said. “Hats off the them. That’s a hell of an of­fense we faced tonight. We missed a cou­ple of of­fen­sive op­por­tu­ni­ties but we got it done.”

Johnny Jones scored the first touch­down on a short run, and quar­ter­back An­thony Marino threw a pair of scor­ing passes, an 85-yard bomb to LaJohn­tay Wester and a 22-yard strike to Ed­drayian But­ler.

Marino also scored on a quar­ter­back sneak, and Rafael Gon-

at the 5:41 mark of the sec­ond quar­ter.

Both fum­bles were caused by Plant City de­fend­ers punching at the ball, part of the Raiders’ fo­cus on stop­ping — or at least slow­ing — him.

With the vic­tory, Braden River (9-2) ad­vances to face de­fend­ing Class 7A state cham­pion Venice in the sec­ond round for the third con­sec­u­tive sea­son.

The Pi­rates lost those play­off en­coun­ters and, with Mc­Daniel in the lineup, lost 24-21 to the In­di­ans in late Septem­ber.

Braden River’s only other loss came to Jack­sonville Trin­ity Chris­tian, the top-ranked Class 5A team in the state and a top-50 pro­gram in the na­tion.

The vic­tory also marked the sec­ond time in four sea­sons Braden River ended Plant City’s sea­son: Braden River earned a 17-7 vic­tory in the re­gional fi­nal round of the 2015 sea­son.

The Pi­rates have won at least one post­sea­son game in five con­sec­u­tive sea­sons.

Though the teams met in an ear­lier round this time, this edi­tion of the Pi­rates’ de­fense was just as stingy. The Pi­rates lim­ited the Raiders (9-2) to 9 points through 44 min­utes and their stand­out quar­ter­back, Brax­ton Plunk to a 19 of 45 per­for­mance for 283 yards.

They did it with tight cov­er­age on Plant City’s re­ceivers, aided by the de­fen­sive backs’ con­sis­tent abil­ity to time their con­tact with re­ceivers.

Braden River was also able to get pres­sure on Plunk from the in­te­rior on ob­vi­ous pass­ing downs. Plunk en­tered the game hav­ing thrown for 2,326 yards, 24 touch­downs and four in­ter­cep­tions.

The Pi­rates’ Mark Davis gave Plunk his fifth in­ter­cep­tion, pick­ing off an over­thrown pass at the goal line with 1:37 left in the first half to pre­vent Plant City from cut­ting into the Pi­rates’ 14-3 lead be­fore the break.

Even with Plunk, the Plant City of­fense, on pa­per, was less dy­namic when com­pared to Braden River, which av­er­aged more than 45 points in their eight wins and more than 40 over­all.

An­thony Marino

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