By Ken Jackson
Harmony and Gateway won’t meet until next week, but both hope to keep the momentum from their Kickoff Classic victories going in the first week of the regular season.
The Panthers, looking to make it three playoff appearances in four years — after never getting in for the school’s first 30 years of existence — gutted out a 23-14 preseason win over Tampa Freedom that Coach Marlin Roberts called “one of those wins”.
“There is a lot that needs to be done for us to be successful, there’s still a lot of work to do,” he said.
The only worry for Harmony was that the scoreboard light bulbs wouldn’t blow out, as the Longhorns powered through Palm Bay Bayside, 52-0.
This week, Gateway has to get through Boone, in Orlando, on Friday, while Harmony hosts Space Coast at 7:30.
Running back Phillip Bangura scored a rushing touchdown and on a punt return for the Panthers, and converted basketball player Tyreek Robinson hauled in a touchdown pass on a fade route, using his 6-4 frame like he was posting up in the paint.
“Then he got a foot down like he knew what he was doing,” Roberts said. “I wish he’d been a football kid all his career.”
The coach lauded second-year starting quarterback Maurice Adams for a solid game (“he made good runs, good reads, good throws”) In a gear-up for what may be required for the bulk of the season, much of Gateway’s top talent played both ways and did it well, like Bangura (running back/defensive back), Hunter Knapczyk (slot receiver/linebacker) and Julian Olmo (offensive/defensive line).
“Phil never came off the field. I didn’t realize how bad it would be, but a lot of our depth went up to the new schools,” Roberts said, talking about Tohopekaliga High.
Boone defeated St. Cloud, 35-17, last week.
“They’re going to be tough,” Roberts said. “They have some big boys in their front seven on defense, and they run the ball so well, they just keep finding fast kids to run it.”
Harmony overcame five turnovers — all the in first half — for its big win.
“Lots of positives,” Longhorns Coach Don Simon said. “We gave up a total of 18 yards, got everyone in we wanted to see including all the receivers and running backs, found some depth on the offensive line, and we were well-conditioned, it looked like our guys had a lot left at the end,” he said. “I’m not unhappy with where we are, put it that way.
“We were a totally different team in the second half than in the first and put the game away. Nate (Herstich, the quarterback) is doing all the things we’re asking him to.”
Despite the Longhorn defense not giving up a point Friday — or in the spring game against Cypress Creek — defensive coordinator Nick Lippert said his guys can still play better.
“We had some missed assignments and tackles,” he said. “The biggest thing I am pushing this year is getting the defense to have the same expectations I do.”
Space Coast defeated Satellite, 24-14, in its spring game, and is capable in the run and pass games. And Simon is well aware.
“If we play sloppy like we did in the first half Friday, we’re going to have a problem,” he said. “We need to be Friday’s second-half team for two halves.”