VERO BEACH – Alex Bryan hit Joe Garafalo with a 35-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter Friday night to lead the Vero Beach Fighting Indians to a 22-17 triumph over West Boca Raton.
Bryan finished the night with 5 of 9 passing for 105 yards and the one TD as Vero Beach improved to 2-0. The first half belonged to West Boca, but not by much. West Boca quarterback Alex Prakas was 7 of 9 passing for 68 yards and a TD, but Vero Beach held West Boca running back Aspha Smart to just 37 yards. The Fighting Indians were held to only one first down, and had to deflect a punt to set up their first TD in the first half.
Prakas connected with tight end Ryan Greenwald on a 5-yard pass in the first quarter to open up the scoring. Vero Beach fullback Jormonte Hunter scored on a 2-yard plunge up the middle on the first play of the second quarter, but Pat Baker missed the point after wide left as West Boca held on to a 7-6 lead. West Boca’s Mauro Bondi added a 33-yard FG to give the visitors a 10-6 lead at halftime.
“I don’t have an answer for the flatness in the first half,” said Vero Beach Coach Gary Coggin. “They’ve got some good players, and they took advantage of our missed assignments.”
Vero Beach opened the second half by driving 71 yards in ten plays, ending on a 3-yard TD run by Antone Taylor. Baker split the uprights to give Vero Beach the lead, 13-10.
West Boca scored on the very next possession when Prakas and Greenwald hooked up again for a 58-yard TD pass. Greenwald broke a tackle around midfield, and ran away from everyone to reach the end zone to give the Bulls a 17-13 lead.
Vero Beach opened the third quarter with a first down on third-and-10, when Bryan hit Garafalo with an 18-yard pass. After chewing up 23 more yards on the ground with RBs Stevie Wallace and Taylor, the capacity crowd at the Citrus Bowl was treated to the play of the game.
Vero Beach was in a second-and-20 situation on the West Boca 39-yard line when Coggin put the ball in the hands of his senior quarterback. Bryan threw deep to a streaking Garafalo down the left sideline. Garafalo and the West Boca defender went up for the ball, and the defender got a hand on it. Garafalo quickly caught the deflection as he was crossing the goal line to put the Fighting Indians up for good at 20-17.
“I was supposed to run a stutter and go, but instead it ended up being a hitch and go,” said Garafalo, who finished the game with 3 catches and 71 yards.
“Joe is a great competitor, and he came up with a huge play,” said Coggin.
The Vero Beach defense stopped West Boca cold the rest of the game, and ended up forcing the Bulls into a safety late in the game to make the final score 22-17.
West Boca played hard, but just couldn’t move the ball in the fourt quarter when they needed to.
“They’ve got a heck of a team, but we got some breaks,” said Coggin “We got a little lucky tonight, but I’ll take it.”
Vero Beach hosts rival Fort Pierce Westwood at the Citrus Bowl next Friday.