Prep football | Palmetto Tigers outfox Auburndale Bloodhounds in playoff opener

Double pass sets stage for 27-9 victory as Tigers roll

jdill@bradenton.comNovember 17, 2012 

AUBURNDALE -- Josh Hicks hasn't played quarterback since his Little League days.

He tosses the football around in practice, though.

The Palmetto running back still isn't expected to heave long balls downfield.

That is until Friday night at Auburndale in a Class 5A-Region 3 quarterfinal, when Palmetto used a double pass that enabled Hicks to register a 57-yard touchdown strike to Shaq Harris to build momentum late in the first half of a 27-9 victory.

That's what playoff games will do.

"We work on all kinds of gadgets like that," Palmetto head coach Dave Marino said. "And he came up big. And Shaq came up big. This is playoff football. You've got to lay it all out there. There is no tomorrow."

Palmetto earned a road victory and will travel to Lake Wales, which edged Southeast 20-17 in another 5A-3 quarterfinal.

The trick play came in a pivotal time for the Tigers (9-2), who scored on their opening possession before Auburndale's stout defense stiffened and made things difficult for Palmetto's offense to find any running room.

So midway through the second quarter, quarterback Chris Tuten tossed what looked like a screen pass to Hicks.

Then Hicks stopped in his tracks, turned and fired a pass across the middle that

found a streaking Harris in space.

Palmetto's speedy senior wide receiver did the rest to give Palmetto a 14-0 lead.

"I'm an athlete," Hicks said. "Coach put me in position to make a play."

Palmetto scored another touchdown in the third quarter and forced the Bloodhounds off the scoreboard until late in the fourth quarter.

By that time, Palmetto was enjoying a 27-0 cushion, and the game was firmly intact.

Entering the week, Marino said his team needed to improve its efficiency on third down.

And for the most part, Palmetto accomplished the task with ease.

A perfect example was two third-down conversions from Tuten's arm late in the third quarter that yielded a score.

First, he found Cory Crawford for a 66-yard reception on a third and 5, and then he delivered a 5-yard touchdown run on a 3rd and goal when it looked certain he would be brought down for a loss.

"It was a busted play," Tuten said. "I just caught (the high snap). Honestly, at first I didn't think I was going to catch it. I caught it and then saw that hole, and hit the hole."

Nonetheless, the Bloodhounds didn't quit, and used a Palmetto fumble to account for their lone touchdown drive.

A late safety capped the scoring.

Florida State University commit Derwin James, a sophomore Auburndale running back, finished with a game-high 108 receiving yards on five catches and added 62 rushing yards on nine attempts.

Crawford, bounded for Temple, had three receptions for 87 yards, and Harris had two catches for 69 yards. Both of Harris' receptions went for touchdowns.

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