Vero Beach Fighting Indians host rival Westwood tonight

VERO BEACH — The Panthers (1-1) and Fighting Indians (2-0) square off at the Citrus Bowl on Friday, in what promises to be an intense game. After beating Westwood in 2006 and 2007, VBHS lost last year’s contest 21-19. Both teams are off to promising starts and it should be one of the best games of the season.


These rival teams are polar opposites on offense, but run identical defensive schemes. VBHS uses variants of the run-based wing-T and power I formations, while Westwood runs the run-and-shoot variation of the spread offense. Both teams employ a 3-5-3 defense, and generally dare teams to pass on them by putting eight players in the box (close to the line of scrimmage). Offense

Fullback Jormonte Hunter is the workhorse amongst a talented stable of running backs, accounting for 204 of Vero Beach’s 426 rushing yards. To stop their offense, you have to neutralize their powerful offensive line and dare them to throw the football.

West Boca did this for a half last week, but couldn’t seal the deal and keep a fourth-quarter lead last week. Wide receiver Joe Garafalo (110 yards, 1 TD) and tight end Quincy Dudley have the skills to be major weapons for quarterback Alex Bryan (124 yards passing, 1 TD), but they are used sparingly.

Wide receiver Leon Shorter is the go-to guy for the Panthers. Offered a scholarship by Louisville, he has 11 catches for 238 yards and 2 TDs this year.

When Centennial didn’t double cover him last week, he absolutely tortured their secondary. Wonderful Terry and Everett Jackson line up at both slot receiver and running back, and could be fastest players Vero Beach sees this year.

Both Terry and Jackson returned a kick for a touchdown against Centennial. Sophomore quarterback Tavares Copeland is small, but he gets rid of the ball quick. Applying pressure to him is how Treasure Coast beat the Panthers.


These teams are blessed with playmakers on defense, albeit at different positions. VBHS features playmakers close to the line of scrimmage, with Defensive ends David Dixson and Cody Horstman being strong against the run and rushing the QB.

Linebacker Dion Holmes is a star in the making and his instincts get better every week. Defensive Back Larry Franklin is the lone playmaker in an otherwise unproven secondary. The Fighting Indians are well equipped to stop the run, but struggled against the pass last week.

Punter Pat Baker proved he can game changer last week, when he sealed West Boca’s fate by pinning them back to their own 6 late in the 4th quarter.

Westwood’s defense is facing a real test in stopping the VBHS running attack this week. The Panthers have speed to burn in the secondary, with offensive playmakers Terry and Jackson roaming the secondary from their Safety positions.

Wisconsin signed Defensive back Jameson Wright to a scholarship last weekend, so to say Westwood has talent in its defensive backfield is accurate. Stopping Hunter from gaining over 100 yards, however, is a different matter altogether. Punter Alex Sierra has been sporadic and is one of Westwood’s few liabilities.


This rivalry game is going to be a fierce and physical contest. If Vero Beach can establish their ground game, they will control the flow of the game and win.  If Westwood jumps out to a lead of over 10 points, they will force the home team to throw against a great secondary. This one is too close to call, and will surely be a classic.

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