VERO BEACH – Vero Beach unleashed almost 300 yards of passing and over 400 total yards of offense on New Smyrna Beach in the spring game Friday, beating the visitors 45-21.
Building on the excitement built on last week’s Red and White Game, new Vero Beach head coach Lenny Jankowski showed how potent his up-tempo spread offense could be against another school’s defense.
“We drove the ball early in the game. and after that, we really felt like we were able to do a lot of things,” said Jankowski. “I was very pleased with the protection the offensive line gave our quarterback, and I was pleased with the way they opened up holes for our running backs. I was very happy with the offense. We’ve got some playmakers, and we were able to get the ball to them tonight.”
Vero Beach built a 31-21 halftime lead on the strength of long passing plays from quarterback E.J. Pryor.
“I thought E.J. did a great job tonight running, throwing and directing the offense tonight,” said Jankowski “He’s a competitor. This is his first year playing quarterback, but he wants the ball in his hands no matter how he gets it.”
Pryor threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to running back Dentist Hall, and touchdown passes of 65 and 73 yards to wide receiver Charlie Miller. Hall also scored two rushing touchdowns.
Miller’s scoring catches came in the second quarter on back-to-back possessions. The erstwhile basketball star (20.1 PPG, 4.0 AST, and 3.0 STL per game this year for Vero Beach’s basketball team) has only been playing football since the beginning of spring practices.
“My first introduction to Charlie Miller was the night they introduced me as coach here at Vero (during a home basketball game),” Jankowski said. “I thought he was a dynamic athlete, and it turned out he wanted to come out for football. He’s a super kid on top of being a super athlete.”
The Fighting Indian defense surrendered most of New Smyrna Beach running back D’Cota Dixon’s 103 rushing yards in the first half. A healthy dose of misdirection plays kept the first down markers moving for the Barracudas, and they came back from a 31-7 deficit with 6:35 left to play to make the score 31-21 at halftime.
New Smyrna Beach was held scoreless in the second half.
Linbackers Cole Ripple and Josh Gallo (1 INT), both rising juniors, made their presence felt in the second half with big hits and key plays.
“We needed them to step up tonight, and they did,” said Jankowski. “Robert Dixson and Lemetrius Bennefield didn’t even dress tonight, so we were really light at those positions. They were able to take a bulk of the snaps not only tonight, but all spring and still stay healthy.”
Jankowski is eager to see how the team transitions from spring practices to the voluntary workouts this summer.
“I’m very pleased with our progress, and we’ll continue to work towards getting better,” Jankowski said. “I’m very proud of our players and our coaches. and they’ll continue to get more comfortable with what we are going to do. The sky’s the limit.”