High School Sports

Palmetto football's spring mission: finding a center

PALMETTO -- With Miami-bound quarterback Jack Allison and two speedy wide receivers, the Palmetto Tigers already possess a deadly passing game.

But providing Allison with enough time in the pocket with the right protection from the offensive line is the key to a playoff run next fall.

And figuring out that line, in particular the center position, has begun at Blackstone Park where the Tigers are working out this spring.

"It's the most important position on the field," said Palmetto head coach Dave Marino about finding a center.

Allison said it's about getting five guys in the trenches that they can trust.

"Right now, I think we've got that," the rising senior signal-caller said.

The Tigers return three offensive linemen in James Kinley, Christian Kalish and Corey Brady.

Kinley is a rising senior who plays left guard. His responsibilities as the blindside tackle are paramount to the success Palmetto will have offensively.

"You have a lot of responsibility with everything, because if you mess up, he could get hurt," Kinley said. "But it's fun. I enjoy it. A lot of guys don't want to play offense, because they would much rather play defense and sack the quarterback and get a lot of tackles. But me as an offensive lineman, I enjoy it because when it all comes down to it, the game is won and lost in the trenches."

As the blindside guard, a missed assignment could result in not just an injury to

his quarterback but a turnover that could prove costly in determining a game's outcome this fall.

"Last year, a lot of the little mistakes with the offensive line," Kinley said. "The little plays that watching back on film, what we could've done better, what I could've done better, a lot of it changes the difference in the game."

But Kinley, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 290 pounds, said there's a lot of reward succeeding in that type of pressure situations.

He also said the offensive line is pretty quick off the ball showcasing the speed necessary to thwart opposing defenders from breaking the line and clogging up any offensive movement.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have weapons at the skill spots to complement Allison.

Two returning receivers off last year's district runner-up team, Azavion Smith and Brandon Luckett, have moved up the depth chart this spring. They're shifty, speedsters out wide for Allison to target next fall and in Friday's spring game against St. Petersburg High.

"They go from the number three and four receivers to the number one and two receivers," Marino said. "... We're blessed in that regard. We got two good speed burners."

Fans getting a sneak-peak at next fall's Palmetto squad will get that chance this Friday at 7:30 p.m. when the Tigers host St. Pete at Harllee Stadium.

The game was originally scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff but was pushed back 30 minutes to accommodate St. Pete's travel schedule.