Palmetto saw an opening in the Fort Myers’ defense at halftime.
The Tigers’ new-look offense sends runners in all directions leading up to and immediately after the snap. Quarterback Jason Spicer Jr. goes one way to hand the ball to a running back. Another back, lined up in the slot, zooms across the backfield from one side of the offensive line to the other to give Spicer another option. When the reads are right, Palmetto trickles down the field in small chunks.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Palmetto faced a fourth-and-3 at the Green Wave’s 41-yard line. A turnover on downs against run-heavy Fort Myers could’ve meant not seeing the ball again, but Tigers head coach Dave Marino still saw the Green Wave chasing the edges.
With 6:20 left, Marino went to his adjustment. Spicer handed the ball to Elijah Davis, who burst through the middle of the defense for a first down, and dragged a pair of defenders into the end zone for the decisive 41-yard touchdown in Palmetto’s 20-14 win against the Green Wave at Harllee Stadium.
“We have adjustments. We’re always ready to adjust and that was something that we saw, that they were overplaying a little bit and we knew off that zoom action we were going to be able to get something backside,” Marino said. “We knew it was going to hit for a first down, and they did it so well that it hit for a touchdown.”
Palmetto (1-0) opened its season with a signature win despite a first-year quarterback and a new offensive style. The Tigers ran for 206 yards and threw for 106 more. Their defense held Fort Myers (0-1) to one touchdown in each half. The Green Wave, ranked No. 8 in Class 6A in the preseason AP poll, failed to complete a pass and turned the ball over twice. Only 201 rushing yards from star running back Darrian Felix, who was making his first regular-season start at quarterback, kept Fort Myers afloat.
“I knew it’d be one of those tough, blood-and-guts kind of games,” Green Wave head coach Sammy Sirianni said. “Similar styles, similar personnel groups. Good test for both teams to see where you are at this time of the year. You want to win them, but we’ll gain more from this than playing somebody who wouldn’t challenge us.”
Palmetto and Fort Myers traded stalled drives during the first quarter before Felix finally opened the scoring with a 28-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter. But a blocked extra point kept the lead at 6-0. Less than three minutes later, Davis punched in a 2-yard touchdown run to give Palmetto a 7-6 lead. Davis finished with 11 carries for 86 yards and two touchdowns. The Tigers didn’t trail again.
“That’s going to be the recipe,” Marino said. “We’re not going to put up 40 points this year, not yet anyway, but if we do what we need to do, run the football, control the clock, play good special teams and play defense then that’s a pretty good recipe for success, as well.”
Palmetto 20, Fort Myers 14
F— Darrian Felix 28 run (kick blocked), 11:49
P— Elijah Davis 2 run (Freddy Manriquez kick), 9:05
P— Sidney Pompey 69 pass from Jason Spicer Jr. (Manriquez kick), 2:43
F— Felix 1 run (Felix run), 11:17
P— Davis 41 run (kick blocked), 6:20
RUSHING: Fort Myers: Felix 26-201, Xavier Perez 19-63, Yasias Young 5-5, Dawson DeGroot 1-(-2), Totals: 51-267. Palmetto: Johnny Jones 5-20, Davis 11-86, Spicer 9-67, Herman White IV 1-9, Corian Brown 4-6, Totals: 30-188.
PASSING: Fort Myers: Felix 0-5-1-0, Totals: 0-5-1-0. Palmetto: Spicer 8-11-0-113, Totals: 7-10-0-113.
RECEIVING: Fort Myers: Totals: 0-0. Palmetto: Jacob Sullivan 2-21, Pompey 2-74, Isaiah Washington 2-18, Paco Garcia 1-0. Totals: 8-113.