PALMETTO -- Similar to his team's momentum, Terry Collins started to slip as he pursued Arcadia DeSoto's quarterback Friday night.
Similar to his team again, though, Collins found a way to make a play. Palmetto's junior linebacker stuck out his arm and tripped up the Bulldogs' Reggie Jones with DeSoto facing a fourth-and-4 from its 33.
Moments later, the Tigers were toasting a 9-7 win over the Bulldogs after a rainy Class 5A-District 10 opener for both teams.
This wasn't the way Palmetto (4-0), the state's top-ranked team in Class 5A, was supposed to win. The Tigers returned a ton of firepower and graduated eight defensive starters from last year's final four team, and it seemed to be a given the offense would do the heavy lifting while the defense found itself.
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That wasn't the case Friday. Palmetto was limited to 200 yards, but its defense smothered DeSoto (3-1), allowing the Bulldogs just 147 yards of offense and two first downs.
"It's incredible to have a bunch of young guys come together, play together and overcome a difficult challenge in a wing-T offense they don't see day in and day out," Palmetto coach Dave Marino said. "You can't say enough. It was just an outstanding effort defensively."
The run-heavy Bulldogs didn't get a first down until Jones' 25-yard scramble moved the ball to Palmetto's 11-yard line with five minutes remaining in the third quarter. But Palmetto's defense, coupled with a procedure penalty, forced the Bulldogs to try a 30-yard field goal, which they missed.
DeSoto did dent the scoreboard with roughly nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter when Jones, on his second and final pass attempt of the night, hit an open Zach Strube for a seven-yard touchdown.
But Collins' huge sack with 1:37 remaining allowed Palmetto's offense to run down the clock.
"In practice, we've been working on those fourth downs," Collins said. "I thought he was going to get away. I was slipping, so I dove and then I did the little technique we do in practice, a slap-the-knee tackle."
Palmetto's offense never got in sync. Chris Tuten, who has been anointed the team's starting quarterback with senior Spencer Atkins
sliding over to linebacker, was 5-for-16 with two interceptions. But he did hit E.J. Burston down the left sideline for a 48-yard touchdown and a 9-0 lead 5:48 before halftime.
Burston had three catches for 75 yards, and Cory Crawford paced Palmetto with 68 rushing yards on 20 carries.
"We didn't execute. They came in here hungry, DeSoto did," Marino said. "They wanted it more than we did offensively. Hats off and thank God for our defense (Friday)."