Palm Beach Gardens' defense bent but didn’t break on Saturday afternoon.
The Gators hung on to a narrow 16-8 lead to beat rival Palm Beach Lakes, making a last-second defensive stand near their own end zone on Saturday at Jupiter High.
“We just wanted to get the ‘W,'” Gardens coach Tyrone Higgins said.
Up by eight points, Gardens had to keep Lakes out of the end zone after punting the ball to about midfield. The Rams had 3:08 to score and force overtime.
Lakes drove down the field, picking up first downs on a pass from quarterback Eugene Johnson, a run by Johnson and a pass-interference call on Gardens. Super 11 selection Antonio Outler took a direct snap and got to the 2-yard line. On the next play, he took another direct snap and tried to run to the outside and into the end zone, but the Gators defense got there first and forced him out of bounds to end the game.
“I knew something different was coming, and that was it,” Higgins said. “It was a great answer by my defense.”
The final end-zone stop was the second time Gardens' defense made a big play near its own end zone Saturday.
After the Gators took a 3-0 lead on a field goal, the Rams responded with what looked like a sure touchdown pass from Edwards. The Lakes receiver sprinted toward the goal line, where Gardens cornerback Jacory Brown stripped the ball from his hands. Brown recovered the loose ball in the end zone, and the Gators over at the 20-yard line.
“That’s huge,” Higgins said. “That’s kind of the mentality you’re going to have to play this year. You can’t control X’s and O’s, but you can control effort. And that’s exactly what he gives us on a day-to-day basis. He’s an amazing football player — one of the best corners in our county.”
Two plays later, Gardens quarterback Lynden Moss connected with freshman Michael Wright III for a 73-yard touchdown score.
Gardens scored what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown on a 36-yard touchdown run by Jamarri Brown. Outler later scored a 2-yard run to get the Rams on the board, but they could not get the tying score.
“Don’t forget, I was in that program,” Higgins said. “One of the mottos there is you never give up. So that’s kind of what I’m trying to do here with my guys. We want to always know that we have a chance of winning.”
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