The fall was frittering away.
So the Palmetto Tigers turned to the summer.
They remembered practicing in the rain. They remembered running gassers. They remembered all those visits to the nursing homes.
And then they pushed forward.
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Palmetto hosts Port Charlotte tonight in a pivotal Class 4A-District 11 game, one where the winner will be playing a meaningful game on Nov. 6 and the loser will be playing nothing more than the role of spoiler for the rest of the fall.
That’s the pro and con of playing in a small district. Two wins can get you into the playoffs, while two losses easily seals your doom.
Nonetheless, the Tigers are playing a meaningful ballgame tonight. Most importantly, they’re doing so with some momentum on their side.
“I feel like (things) are starting to work out,” said offensive lineman Jeremy Levan.
It’s a simple statement, and one miles removed from that night in Wauchula, when the Tigers were tripped up by Hardee.
They lost 20-7, dropping their record to 0-3, a stretch where they had been outscored 77-13.
Playoffs? Palmetto needed to a win a game.
So the Tigers did. They went to Bayshore and beat the Bruins.
Then they opened up district play against powerful Punta Gorda Charlotte and gave the Tarpons, ranked second in the state at the time in Class 4A, their biggest test of the season.
Last week, Palmetto blanked Riverview, which had averaged 33.8 points per game en route to a 4-1 start.
“That’s such a big confience boost,” Levan said.
Now Palmetto’s season, once in danger of fading into ether, is alive and breathing.
“We had to keep preaching and teaching,” said coach Raymond Woodie “It was just some things that these kids believed in, and it goes back to the summer — putting these kids in adverse situations and seeing how they are going to respond.”
It was over the summer when the Tigers learned to embrace challenges, working out in inclement weather and doing extra work when they were finished.
They toured nursing homes, which was Woodie’s way of reminding his players to take advantage of their good health while they still have it.
“It really makes us realize how good we got it,” Levan said. “It makes us work even harder because we’ve seen how good we got it.”
It can get even better tonight — a win this week puts Palmetto on the doorstep to a third-straight playoff berth.
If you get into the playoffs, there is no way of knowing where your season will stop.
The Tigers, for one, will forever know where it started.
John Lembo, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2097.