LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Chad Rex has shown he can be an elusive quarterback. In fact, he has become somewhat of a master in the art of escapism.
But even Houdini had moments when there was no way out of a predicament.
That's why Rex appreciates Cameron Pearcey.
Lakewood Ranch ranks second among area public schools in total yards per game (356), and a lot of that success can be attributed to Pearcey bailing out Rex when he runs out of real estate.
The Mustangs will need the skills of that duo when they play host to Palmetto on Friday night in a game that likely will determine the Class 7A-District 10 champion.
The Tigers are fast and athletic and have had their way with Lakewood Ranch the past two years beating them by a combined 70-7.
This year, things could be different. The Mustangs might not be able to slow down a Palmetto offense that is averaging 41 points in its three victories, but the hope is they have the offense to stay with the Tigers.
A lot of that hope falls on the shoulders of Rex and Pearcey and, perhaps, Tony Pearcey.
After each game, Cameron and his dad go over their own game film. Tony was a standout at Bayshore and receiver at Vanderbilt who was good enough to get invited to the New York Giants training camp, where he lasted until the final cut before an injury ended his career.
"Our offense starts with our offensive line, but Cameron helps me a lot," Rex said. "Half of my pass plays come on a broken play. I am scrambling, and I always can count on him to get open. Sometimes I'll just throw it up, and most of the time he comes down with it."
Cameron Pearcey has caught 21 of Rex's 44 completions and accounted for 50 percent of the quarterback's passing yardage and four of his six TD passes.
"Me and my dad have had some long conversations at night after a game," Pearcey said. "He teaches me the ins and outs and how to get off the ball. He will point out things I can do better. I saw film on him (at Vanderbilt) and was impressed. I noticed he was really fast. And he is a lot taller. I am about 5-8, and he is 6-3."
Tony Pearcey coached his sons when they were young. He plays an advisory role now, which he says is more enjoyable.
"Cameron is a better athlete than I ever dreamed of being. If he was 6-2 or 6-3, I would be afraid because he would be more inclined to go toward football rather than baseball," Tony Pearcey said. "We come home after games, look at the video and what transpired. I point out the things he did well and other things that he did OK, but if he changed his technique a little there could be better results."
Both teams have put up a lot of points. The Mustangs are averaging 39.5 points in their four victories, so fireworks could explode through Lakewood Ranch.
Offensive coordinator Mic Koczersut says you just don't know what to expect.
"Palmetto is very fast and gets to the ball quickly," Koczersut said. "They've been very good the last couple of years and hopefully we are closing the gap. For us, Chad has to keep making plays that he can. He gets himself into trouble when he tries to do more than what he is expected to do. He just needs to play smart. The score could depend on how hard everyone plays. You just don't know."
The biggest concern for Lakewood Ranch head coach Shawn Trent is his defense's tendency give up the big play. It can prove fatal against an explosive offense like Palmetto, which features Josh Hicks. Against Manatee last week, the tailback had a 69-yard TD run and returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown.
"Palmetto has the edge in athleticism. There is no question about it," Trent said. "We have to be more consistent on defense and not give up the big play. At times, we played pretty well and at times we've done boneheaded things and given up big plays, and that has killed us. We need consistency more than anything."