Showdown of the year: Vero Beach vs. Treasure Coast

By Michael Bielecki

VERO BEACH – Undefeated Vero Beach (7-0) will host Treasure Coast High School (4-2) in their annual homecoming game on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Fighting Indians and Titans boast two of the best defenses in the state, and both teams are undefeated in district play.

“We had some big holes to fill coming into the year,” said Vero Beach Head Coach Gary Coggin. “The departure of Zeke Motta (Notre Dame) and Bryan Stork (FSU) left us starting a lot of underclassmen. If you were to tell me that we’d be undefeated at this point in the season I would have asked to take your temperature.” Offense

Vero Beach has averaged 24.7 points per game, while Treasure Coast has averaged only 12. Their common opponents (Palm Beach Gardens, Westwood, and Centennial) make the schools match up much more evenly. The Fighting Indians averaged 22.3 points against these schools, while the Titans averaged 20.7; both schools were 3-0 against the aforementioned teams.

VBHS shines with its running game, and two juniors lead a talented core of running backs. Workhorse Jormonte Hunter leads the way with 712 yards rushing and 13 TDs. Antone Taylor’s breakout performance of 137 yards was impressive last week, and he’s totaled 399 yards on the year (6.9 yards per carry). Treasure Coast has a running game too, and it’s lead by senior RB Cedric Wilcox and his 455 yards (4 TDs).

What really sets the teams apart is passing. The Fighting Indians draw criticism for their reluctance to pass, but they are certainly capable of doing it. Quarterbacks Alex Bryan and Todd Fennell have completed 50 percent of their passes for five TDs and only one interception. The Titans have really struggled when forced to throw the ball this year. Quarterbacks Dylan Parker and Steve Marriott have completed only 41 percent of their passes for a pedestrian 298 yards. Parker has passed for two TDs and all nine Titan interceptions. Treasure Coast has scored two more TDs off of trick or “gadget” passing plays this year.

Defense

This is the first time all season that Vero Beach hasn’t come into a game with the best defense on the field. The Titans have allowed 35 points to the Fighting Indians’ 27 against common opponents. While this may not sound as impressive as VBHS, consider Treasure Coast accomplished this stat with vastly inferior offensive numbers. Hunter has outscored the entire Treasure Coast team 14 TDs to nine, and is 84 yards away from outrushing them.

What does this say about the Titan defense? It says that even though their offense isn’t good enough grind down the clock by keeping the ball, they still keep opponents to around 10 points per game. Defenses get tired when they stay on the field for long periods of time. Aside from a 37-0 blowout suffered at the hands of Mainland, Treasure Coast hasn’t given up more than 14 points in a football game and has shut out two teams.

The Titan defense is lead by LB Jeff Luc, the No. 1 inside linebacker in the Country (Scout.com). At 6-foot-1 230 pounds, he’s a fierce combination of size and speed. Outside linebackers Deon Rogers Ed Foley are big playmakers on a defense full of playmakers. Rogers and Luc, both seniors, have scholarship offers from Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, FSU, and many others. Junior defensive backs LaMarcus Brutus and Keelin Smith have early offers from the same list of elite football schools.

The Fighting Indians’ defense should have few problems containing the Titan offense. Linebackers Rockcliff Coke and Dion Holmes have had great years as the team’s leading tacklers. Defensive ends David Dixson, both juniors, have terrorized opposing quarterbacks and running backs all year. On the rare occasion that a play gets behind these four, senior safety Larry Franklin has done a nice job cleaning up the occasional mess.

Analysis

VBHS special teams will win the game for the Fighting Indians. Kicker Pat Baker has kicked about 70 percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks, and has field goal range out to 50 yards. Punter Todd Fennell has pinned opponents inside the 20 yard line all year on punts, and occasionally inside the 5. Treasure Coast’s lack of offense will insure that they will spend most of the game in their own territory, and that they will eventually have to pass the ball. In a low scoring game that may go into overtime, it’s hard not to like VBHS at home on homecoming.

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