PALMETTO -- Doughnuts lead to pizza at Palmetto High.
Or bagels lead to pizza.
Any way you to slice it, the whole Palmetto football team is treated to free pizza when the Tigers record a shutout.
There were pies aplenty this week at Palmetto. And last week, too.
In fact, when the Tigers host Bayshore tonight in a Class 5A-District 10 game, they will put a two-game scoreless streak on the line. No team has scored a touchdown against Palmetto since Sarasota scored 14 points in Week 2.
The players, however, know they can do better.
“We’re playing very well, but we’re not playing up to our potential,” said senior defensive back Dallas Jackson, who had two interceptions Friday to help preserve Palmetto’s 27-0 win over Lakewood Ranch. “Last week, we made a lot of mistakes. ... But we were able to make some big plays.
“We were good. But we weren’t great.”
The 2011 season has been a long time coming for guys like Jackson, who along with players such as linebackers Daqual Randall and James Johnson, defensive backs Terrell Baity, De’quan Reddick, Robert Jackson and T.J. Mann, and linemen Tyrone Johnson and Fitz Richards make up a group teeming with experience and camaraderie.
It’s a group that has been together since JV days.
“We all came up the same time,” Dallas Jackson said. “We just bonded. We hang out a lot and we bond, and we’ve created that chemistry. And that chemistry carries out on the field.”
As good as Palmetto’s defense has been -- it has allowed three points in the past three games and 33 this season to help stake the Tigers to a 5-0 record (1-0 in the district) and the No. 6 ranking in the state in Class 5A -- it’s poised to get even better. Though senior lineman and defensive captain Rikeem Cheaves is lost for the season with a ligament tear, Randall, a University of Louisville commit who has been out for three weeks with a knee injury, returns to tonight.
And another linebacker, Jamal Kearney, is expected to return following next week’s bye.
“That just goes to show you our depth,” head coach Dave Marino said. “When get Daqual back and we get Jamal back, we’ll be even better. ... That’s a credit to our defensive coaches and the kids who stepped up when they had their opportunity.
“We’re deep, and we’re very fortunate in that regard.”
While Palmetto has made it hard for the opposition to score, the Tigers have helped their own cause, as they did Week 4 against Arcadia DeSoto. Aided all by night by great field position, Palmetto’s scored 52 points during that night’s district opener, and the defense secure edits shutout by forcing a fourth-quarter fumble inside its 10-yard line.
“I think they feed off each other,” Marino said.
And if Palmetto’s defense keeps playing like this, the Tigers will be feeding on pizza all fall.
“We’ve been talking about this since probably my eighth-grade year: ‘When we become seniors, it’s just our time,’” Dallas Jackson said. “Because we’ve got too much talent, we have too much speed, size; we’ve got it all. And combined with our hard work in the offseason, I don’t anything can really stop us.”