High School Sports

Spring football | Palmetto Tigers pound Booker Tornadoes in storm-shortened game

SARASOTA -- Dave Marino's postgame interview Thursday night didn't take place in the middle of a football stadium or moments after a team huddle.

Instead, he stood underneath an overhang near Palmetto's locker room while the sky grew darker and lightning flashed in the distance.

The Tigers' spring game with Booker was cut short 48 seconds into the second half with Palmetto leading 34-0. While the game doesn't count in the standings, it was one Marino, set to enter his third year as the team's head coached, hoped to finish.

Both teams were sent to their locker rooms after the referees caught site of the lightning with 11:12 on the clock in the third quarter. The stadium wasn't empty for more than 10 minutes before officials from both schools decided to cancel the rest of the game.

"I feel bad for a lot of our younger kids who worked their butts off all spring and didn't get a chance to play. They were going to get a chance to play late in the third and the whole fourth quarter," Marino said. "So it's unfortunate for those kids."

That was the only thing that didn't go right for Palmetto, which dominated the first half. Running back Josh Hicks chugged for 82 yards and two touchdowns, and fellow back Leon Gilbert added a 20-yard touchdown run, had 38 yards rushing and caught a pass for 11 yards.

It was a customary performance for an offense that returns many of its skill players. The defense, which lost eight starters, was equally impressive, forcing three Booker fumbles, recovering two, and getting a pair of sacks from Josh Layhew, the lone returner on the defensive line.

The Tornadoes got to Palmetto's 31-yard line late in the second half and were pushed back to the 37 before an incomplete pass resulted in a turnover on downs.

That was closest Booker came to scoring. Consequently, four of Palmetto's drives began on Booker's side of the field.

"Defensively, there were some question marks, and I think some of the kids answered our questions," Marino said. "We're still going to have to search for some answers at certain spots. For the most part, we're pretty pleased."

Playing with a short field while utilizing a running game Booker couldn't stop, Palmetto didn't get to see much of Spencer Atkins and Chris Tuten, a pair of lefties vying for the starting quarterback job.

Each player looked good in spurts. Atkins hit Shaquille Harris for a 17-yard strike that went for the game's first touchdown less than four minutes into the first quarter and Tuten's well-placed 26-yard toss to Harris down the right sideline toward the end of the half set up Hicks' second score of the game.

"(Atkins) made good decisions, Chris Tuten, as well," Marino said. "For the limited opportunities they had, they looked good."

Palmetto meets Venice for its Kickoff Classic in August, though Marino wished the weather would have cooperated Thursday.

"Every experience for a high school kid is important. It isn't like these guys are seasoned NFL veterans and this was just a preseason game," he said. "They need these reps. They're valuable to these guys. So absolutely, it hurts you a little bit."

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