VERO BEACH – Heading into Friday night’s game against Palm Beach Gardens, Vero Beach Coach Gary Coggin knew the game would be won on field position.
“Last year, field position was a big factor,” he said. “Tonight it allowed us to open up our offense. We had good punt coverage. We worked on special teams all week.” The story of game was field position. Vero only started behind their own 45 once in the first half.
In the first quarter, it seemed neither team could move the ball until linebacker Austin Carter recovered a Palm Beach Gardens fumble at their 27-yard line.
Four plays later, running back Jormonte Hunter had a 3-yard touchdown run to put Vero Beach up, 7 – 0 with 5:15 left in the first quarter. In the second quarter, it was field position again.
Vero Beach punt coverage team was able to down the ball at Palm Beach Gardens’ own 1-yard line. Following an 18-yard punt, Vero Beach found themselves at the 23-yard line.
Four plays later, Jormonte Hunter found the end zone again. Vero Beach lead 14 – 0, with 7:40 left in the second quarter.
Near the end on the half, Palm Beach Gardens attempted a fake punt, which was stuffed by the Vero punt coverage team allowing them to take over at the Palm Beach Gardens’ 45-yard line.
With seconds left on the clock, kicker Karson Dietrich lined up for a 41-yard field. On his first attempt, Dietrich missed the field goal but Palm Beach Gardens called a time out just before the ball was snapped, giving Dietrich a second chance.
As time expired, Dietrich nailed the 41-yard field giving Vero Beach a lead of 17 – 0 at the end of the first half. Vero Beach received the opening kickoff to start the second half. With 9 minutes left in the third quarter, quarterback Todd Fennell found tightend Josh Rice for a 7-yard touchdown pass. Following a successful extra point by Dietrich, Vero Beach extended its lead to 24-0.
With 2:10 left in the third quarter, Vero Beach found the end zone again, when Jormonte Hunter found the end zone on a 16-yard touchdown run. At the end of the quarter, Vero Beach lead 31-0.
In the fourth quarter, against Vero Beach’s third string defense, Palm Beach Gardens’ found their offense.
Just 2 minutes into the fourth quarter, Palm Beach Gardens’ quarterback Tyler Bergman found running back Alex Clark for a 10-yard touchdown.
With 6:34 left in the game, Bergman found Clark again on a screen play that Clark took 66 yards for the touchdown.
After a roughing the kicker call gave Palm Beach Gardens’ new life, Bergman hooked up with wide receiver Robert Whitefield for a 40-yard touchdown pass. Bergman had 168 yards passing in the fourth quarter.
Vero Beach recovered the onside kick and was able to run out the clock, winning the game 31-21. “We had a solid first half,” Coach Coggin said. “We had good blocking, stayed on our blocks, and we ran hard.” For the game, Jormonte Hunter had 15 carries for 93 yards and 3 touchdowns. Brandon James had 9 carries for 50 yards. EJ Pryor had 7 carries for 37 yards.
Todd Fennell did not go to the air much, but he was efficient, 3 for 4 for 25 yards and a touchdown.
Vero Beach is 2-0 in the district and plays at South Fork next Friday night.