BELLE GLADE — The Glades Central spring game didn’t lack for excitement and enthusiasm, it just fell short in execution for the young Raiders. Palm Beach Gardens scored 19 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to defeat the Raiders 35-21.
Head Coach Jesse Hester returned to the Raider sidelines and got a good effort from his young squad. He emphasized spring practice would concentrate on learning. He also challenged the kids to give more of a commitment, to show up to practice, listen to coaches, and buy into the systems on offense and defense. “We must commit to the process. We had some tremendous breakdowns tonight and that goes with practice and learning. I saw some good things out there,” he told the kids.
One concern will be development of depth. The talent is on the sideline to have depth, but it’ll take a commitment in the weight room this summer by all the players if this team is to return to former glory.
Quarterback Jaeze Tracey got the most reps with 26 pass attempts. He got mostly good protection in the pocket. He was able to complete eight passes for 105 yards and a touchdown on the first drive to Jymetre Hester. Steven Barrett was a solid factor in the run game with 15 rushes for 73 yards and a touchdown. He capped a quick six play 81 yard drive in the third quarter with a three yard touchdown run. Key plays on the drive included a scramble by Tracey, who ran for 28 yards, and a 31 yard pass play to DeJuan Miller.
The other Raider score came on a big play late in the third when Sabata Bridges hit James Davis on a sideline pattern and he outran the Gator defense for a 74 yard touchdown. Bridges completed 3-12 passes for 127 yards in the game.
On defense, the Raiders had several pass deflections but also had some golden opportunities for interceptions. Hester and Barrett knocked down passes and Gerald Jackson and Jamarian Green both broke up two passes for the Raider defense. Pierre Nicolas recovered a fumble, Wilkevious Davis had two tackles for loss and Elie Fils-Aime had a quarterback sack for Glades Central.
Javonte Williams did a solid job at punter as he punted six times for 213 yards, which included a 57 yard punt.
Greg Gomez did a solid job at place kicker. There were no kick returns in the game due to an agreement beforehand by the teams. The Raiders had 77 yards in penalties. Miller ended up with four receptions for 26 yards. Green blocked an extra point attempt. Kenyon Purnell ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns for Palm Beach Gardens. He scored on a 23 yard touchdown run to cap a 78 yard drive on the opening series of the game. Jeff Olson added a 25 yard field goal just before halftime.
Purnell’s four yard touchdown run capped a 75 yard drive in the third that gave the Gators a 16-7 lead. After touchdowns by Barrett and Davis gave the Raiders a 21-16 lead, the Gators responded with a 78 yard scoring drive capped by a Daquan Hamilton 62 yard touchdown reception to make it 22-21. Xavier Etienne broke loose for a 79 yard touchdown run and Tremaine Cox intercepted a Raider pass on the next drive and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown to make it 35-21. Coach Hester said the game showed the players the importance of practice. “The kids that got into the game and made mistakes were the ones that didn’t come to practice consistently.” Hester said he was pleased overall in the first team offense and defense. He said the quarterbacks did well with the receivers. He said Tracey will have to improve his decision making and more consistently move the chains. He said the second group was a little off but has the potential to be solid contributors.
“We must do a better job of getting them coached up. The effort was there and they worked hard. That is what you want to see as a coach.” He said most of the mistakes are fixable and that should be an encouragement. “We need to make sure we teach them, make sure they do the right things.”
Hester says the coaches will also preach about being consistent, showing up at practice and in the weight room, and always competing on the field. He wants kids to go out and earn a job and earn playing time.
“The kids are talented enough to get it done but they have to show up in order to do that. We have an offense that is based on rhythm. When the kids are not on the same page with the quarterback, it throws everything off,” he added. Hester said he thinks the quarterback job is still up for grabs. He complimented both quarterbacks for their play Friday.
“They both played equally well. “The second string receivers didn’t help Sabata a whole lot and he played really, really well. Jaeze threw the ball well but he must get better at the decision making. He’s got to understand the down and the distance and keep the chains moving.”
On defense, Hester said again, the team will be aggressive and physical but must know the scheme and stunts and understand what the coaches want them to do.
“When they hit the wrong gaps it really created a mess for us. I hope the kids buy in, show up over the summer and learn,” he added.