It started with a procedure penalty and an incomplete pass.
Then the march began.
It’s a drive that Palmetto High football fans won’t soon forget, and it was in stark contrast to a two-minute drill that wasn’t executed earlier this season.
Quarterback Anthony Marino, wide receivers Kobe Mays and Derek Marino, running backs Elijah Davis and Johnny Jones and outstanding pass protection and run blocking from the offensive line were instrumental in the pivotal touchdown that catapulted Palmetto past Pinellas Park 28-24 last Friday in the Class 7A-Region 3 quarterfinals.
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“We played as a team and when it came down to it, we, honestly, grew up Friday night,” offensive lineman Eriq Porter said.
The day prior to that crucial two-minute drill, the Tigers weren’t executing it during practice. But the time given during practice was a lot less than the 2 minutes, 26 seconds that Palmetto had to work with in its postseason opener.
“Every scenario when we practice it every day, I give (them) 1:20, 1:28, with one timeout,” Palmetto head coach Dave Marino said. “... We had more than enough time.”
While offensive linemen such as Porter and Jesse West provided the blocking and Davis had the game-winning touchdown, Anthony Marino’s calmness with the season at stake keyed the drive.
Marino was 5-for-6 for 43 yards on the drive, stringing five straight completions together after opening with an incomplete pass.
Just before Hurricane Irma hit in early September, Marino was more wayward during a two-minute drill in an eventual 11-10 loss to Sarasota Riverview.
“It was on me,” the junior quarterback said. “I made a bad read on one of (the passes) and then me and my wideouts ... we had a miscommunication. Bad read and bad throw, but that’s on me.”
But last Friday was different.
Pinellas Park, with its wing-T offense, controlled the clock midway through the fourth quarter in a drive that resulted in a go-ahead field goal.
“They were the ones, defensively, that really stepped up to force the field goal,” Dave Marino said. “If we don’t get a stop there on third down, we don’t even get a chance.”
While the defense was limiting Pinellas Park to three points, Anthony Marino and the offense gathered on the sideline.
“I said, ‘Let’s do this,’ ” Marino said. “ ‘I’m with you guys, you guys are with me. Let’s go.’ We just had fun out there.”
Part of the difference between the two-minute drill conducted against Riverview on Sept. 7 and this past Friday against Pinellas Park was the chemistry Marino has established with his receivers.
Two of those players, twin Derek Marino and junior David Burston, started playing catch at Palmetto High during Tigers games when they were younger. David is the younger brother of past Tigers standouts Melvin and E.J. Burston.
The Marino brothers hung around the program Dave Marino has coached since 2010.
“They’ve been in the locker room, they’ve been in locker rooms, they’ve been in big-game situations as little kids,” Marino said. “... So when they go out there on a Friday night, no moment is too big. No game is too big. No stage is too big.”
On Friday, the cohesiveness, coupled with colossal efforts from Mays and Davis, proved decisive. Davis was the go-to option for the game-winning run as time was winding down.
“We were going to put it in the hands of a senior and we’re going to see what he can do,” Anthony Marino said. “He did it for us. He was hungry to get in the end zone.”
Now they’re getting a sendoff parade for this Friday’s regional semifinal at Tampa Bay Tech. Palmetto mayor Shirley Groover Bryant, a Palmetto High parent and community business leaders got together with Dave Marino to organize the parade, which starts at 3:45 p.m. Friday on 17th Street in Palmetto.
“After such a big win, I think they are really excited,” Dave Marino said.
Scouting Tampa Bay Tech
Record: 10-1, Class 7A-District 9 champion
How the Titans got here: defeated Valrico Bloomingdale, 42-22, in a 7A-Region 3 quarterfinal
Head coach: Jayson Roberts
Key offensive players: QB Michael Penix (106-for-198, 1,862 passing yards, 27 TDs, four INTs); RB Treshaun Ward (155 carries, 1,129 rushing yards, 14 TDs), OL Quintin King (13 pancake blocks), OL Miguel Robinson (12 pancake blocks).
Key defensive players: DL Jonathan King (46 tackles, 12 TFL, 4.5 sacks, seven hurries), LB/DL Damaion Bartley (36 tackles, 10 TFL, 5.5 sacks, five hurries), DB Darren Turner (43 tackles, five INTs, seven PBUs).
Jason Dill’s prediction: Tampa Bay Tech 35, Palmetto 21