High School Football

Prep football | Fantastic Four lead Palmetto Tigers past Sarasota Sailors

PALMETTO -- They're called the Fantastic Four, a quartet of receivers any area high school football coach would love to have and would hate to game-plan against.

And each one played an integral part in leading Palmetto past a feisty Sarasota team 47-28 on Friday night at Harllee Stadium.

The fiercesome foursome consists of Cory Crawford, Shaq Harris, E.J. Burston and Patrick Green.

Each contributed in his own way as the Tigers (2-0) held on in a see-saw affair against a much-improved Sailor lineup.

"Sarasota, Riverview, those teams are better (than last season)," Palmetto head coach Dave Marino said. "And our defense is a work in progress. Like I've said, when you lose eight starters from your defense, there's a lot of young kids, inexperienced kids, learning. And they're learning under fire against good football teams ... we have some outstanding athletes. And in the fourth quarter, that cream rises to the top."

Crawford was the big star, playing the game from the tailback position as Josh Hicks and Leon Gilbert were held out due to injuries.

After flashing his speed with 131 yards on the ground in just a half last week against Sarasota Riverview, Crawford exploded for 234 rushing yards on only 12 carries against the Sailors.

He scored on a 53-yard touchdown run off a sweep toward the Palmetto sideline that was aided by strong blocking from his receivers and offensive line on the Tigers' second play of the third quarter.

Once Crawford reached the sideline, he easily outran Sarasota's defense.

"The main thing was just run it down and throw," he said. "Keep it sideline to sideline on them. Because they're very physical and everything."

Crawford also electrified the home crowd with a dazzling 76-yard run that fell at Sarasota's 10-yard line as time expired to signal the end of the first half with Palmetto leading 20-14.

Meanwhile, Sarasota's Rod Tullis was a more plodding performer at running back, as he finished with a team-high 153 yards on 28 carries.

However, Palmetto's array of skill players proved too much for Sarasota to match.

As the Sailors focused on Crawford, Harris and Co. torched Sarasota through the air.

Sophomore quarterback Chris Tuten, who started his first varsity game, completed an efficient 19-of-24 for 312 yards. He also tossed four touchdowns against one interception.

Harris reeled in eight receptions for 171 yards and two scores, while Burston provided the late thunder with Palmetto's final two scores to put the game to bed.

"It was a little dance move," said Burston, who finished with six catches for 84 yards, about his 27-yard TD to cap the Tigers scoring. "I call it, 'Been and Get It.' And that's what I did. He just stopped, and I got it. I started again, and hit the sideline and it was a rout from there."

Not to be forgotten, Green caught one pass for 13 yards, but his solid game came from the bone-crushing block where he knocked two Sarasota defenders to the ground as he sprung Crawford for that 53-yard rush to paydirt early in the third quarter.

"We take blocking very seriously," Burston said. "Honestly, in my heart, blocking is number one. If you don't have a love for blocking, then you are not a true receiver. Because you can't be an out player. You've got to set the edge for your friends and everybody else. It's a brotherhood ... everything else comes naturally."