Palmetto, October 4, 2019- The Tigers are a perfect 6-0 on the season (3-0 at home, 3-0 on the road), ranking third of 82 teams in their Class 6A standings, hold the 91st spot nationally and are knocking at the door of a top 10 program in the state; earning 11th place among all Florida football teams. Although many might not have seen this kind of overbearing and consistent success out the gate, Palmetto has been known for their hot starts in recent years; since 2015, the team has racked up four or more wins in their first six games year in and year out, per MaxPreps. Now, here are some wise words from head coach Dave Marino, speaking on five keys to the big picture; someone who’s been overseeing the Tiger’s whole operation since his arrival in 2010.
- “It starts up front with size. Our offense and defensive lineman are big boys who have been outstanding. We’ve always played big boy football, right now our starting defensive tackles weigh around 280-290, and same thing goes for our offensive front. Last time we made a deep run into the playoffs in 2011, we were in [Class] 5A, but we just didn’t have the huge help up front we do now.”
2. “Depth is the second reason. We have three defensive ends that have no drop-off. We have four guys fighting for two defensive tackle spots, three or four linebackers, and six to seven defensive backs fighting for spots and contributing for us defensively. We lost one of our top receivers in the preseason but didn’t miss much of a beat; thankfully because of the talent at our expense. We also have a 6’5” QB Josh Siplin who played freshman year, sat his sophomore year for basketball and came back this year as a junior and he’ll be outstanding as well fighting for the position. Our guys are getting some quality reps and pushing those starting jobs.”
3. “Development of our senior QB, Xavier Williams has been a big thing. We lost our starting guy and that’s always going to be a question mark. Each week he’s gotten more and more comfortable. The quarterback is the facilitator, giving guys the ball at the right time and knowing when to put things into his own hands. We run an RPO system- he has to know when to take it for himself and when to hand it over to the RB. There are three dimensions to this system; tailback, running back, and the passing game. He’s understanding the motions more and more. It started week one versus Pinellas Park- we were one-dimensional; they were limiting run lanes so he’s learning to pull that ball and hold on to it when needed.”
4. “The starting wide receiver core is a major part as well. A lot of these guys have been starting since their sophomore year- great to have that type of experience at the receiver spot. Lajohntay Wester, Kobe Mays who got hurt in training camp as I mentioned earlier and Eddravian Butler; Curtis Thomas started last year as a junior so he’s a two-year starter for us. Zorian Geathers has stepped up- he and Josh are close and joined Josh in taking time off for basketball, too. But they came back this year wanting to stick to football; if you look at the stats, basketball gives out 10-12 scholarships a year, whereas football is about 85, so that’s another factor to consider.”
Palmetto has scored 201 total points thanks to their dynamic air and ground game and has only allowed 63 total points on defense. With their organized schemes and structure they’ve put together, you can’t argue that those puzzle pieces don’t fit nicely.
5. “Our junior running back Sagel Hickson, he was the third head of the three-headed monster last year with our two seniors. He’s dominated as the main bell cow this year with the tough week-to-week competition. When we played Riverview, Manatee, Braden River, and Largo, Sagel has rushed for 100 yards every week. Three years he’s been with us. We’ve got a lot more production out of our run game than we expected and that’s a credit to the offensive line, too.”
Coach Marino finishes surely, “I’d say these are the top five reasons we are where we are. Always had a great team culture as a close-knit group and when you have that, along with great, selfless players, everyone embodies the TEAM success and thrives off each other’s work ethic.
… We’ve had success without big-time athletes because of this team culture. I have been in this business for 30 years, won a couple of championships along the way and made more appearances- you’ve got to have good players, good coaches and good luck (lack of injuries and things of that nature). You ask any champion and that is going to be in the recipe.”
Palmetto (6-0) has an away, non-conference matchup with Charlotte (4-1) next Friday, Oct. 11th, at 7:30 p.m.
Vaughan Sixbury, BCP Contributor