PALMETTO -- The first player to get a touch for Palmetto in its preseason game against Sarasota Booker on Friday isn't even supposed to be part of the Tigers' offense. Isyah Funk took a handoff from Jack Allison on Palmetto's first play from scrimmage and turned out to the left side for an 18-yard gain.
Funk ran for nearly 900 yards at Chattanooga Central in Tennessee last year before moving to Palmetto, but head coach Dave Marino wants to use the senior in the secondary. His next run came on the Tigers' second play and went for 17 yards.
Palmetto held projected starting running back Octavious James out of its 45-7 classic win at Harlee Stadium with an ankle injury and limited No. 2 back Herman White IV, who is also dealing with a nagging injury. On the third play, Allison gave the ball to Funk again and the back busted out of a tackle for a 5-yard touchdown.
"We've done this before," Marino said. "If you're a football player and you're not afraid of contact and you're a physical kid We knew what he could do."
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Funk only got one more carry -- a 42-yard scamper for a touchdown to cap the Tigers' second drive and give them a 14-0 lead -- before sliding back into the secondary and special teams for the final three-and-a-half quarters.
He will be an option for Palmetto out of the backfield, especially while James nurses the ankle he injured during a 7-on-7 tournament
"We sort of hurt ourselves if we take him off the defense. He solidifies our back end," Marino said. "It's really important that we get Octavious back."
And roughly a minute before the first quarter ended, Funk displayed the value the Tigers expect him to bring in 2015. Booker didn't manage a first down until its final drive of the quarter and before that the Tornadoes punted for the fourth time.
On that fourth punt of the game, defense back Thaddeus Johnson barreled around the edge at the 16-yard line and for the second time blocked the kick. This time the ball squirted into the end zone and Funk dove on it to send Palmetto into the second quarter with a 28-0 lead.
"We moved him into the secondary because we needed some support there," Marino said. "We needed some playmakers back there."
The rest of the offense went through Allison and the other running backs who were replacing James. Azavion Smith, a wide receiver, ran for a 13-yard touchdown out of the backfield for the Tigers' third touchdown. Allison connected with Brandon Luckett and Korey Waters for touchdowns as part of a 73-yard, one-half performance. White, who was the third tailback into Friday's game, carried nine times for 35 yards.
James remains questionable for the Tigers' season opener next Friday in Fort Myers and Palmetto will exercise caution with him until district play begins. Until then, the Tigers have another weapon they can use to bring more balance to a potentially explosive offense.
"We were desperate," Marino said. "We had to bring Funk over and he's a great kid. He'll do whatever you ask him to do."
Palmetto 45, Sarasota Booker 7
Booker 0 0 0 7
Palmetto 28 17 0 0
PAL - Isyah Funk 5 run (Freddie Manrequez kick), (10:03)
PAL - Funk 42 run (Manrequez kick), (7:53)
PAL - Azavion Smith 13 run (Manrequez kick), (6:18)
PAL - Thaddeus Johnson blocks punt, Funk 0 recover (Manrequez kick), (1:07)
PAL - Manrequez 39 field goal (10:18)
PAL - Korey Waters 10 pass from Jack Allison (Manrequez kick) (6:59)
PAL - Brandon Luckett 23 pass from Allison (Manrequez kick) (2:29)
BKR - Tony Register 5 pass from Leander Huewitt (Michael Rivers kick) (9:00)