Will This Manatee County Team Make the Playoffs?

In 2011, Dave Marino and the Palmetto Tigers were one-yard away from a State Championship. Then, Dave Marino was in his second year as coach, and the Tigers were considered to be a non-force in Manatee County. Now, the Tigers are back, growling, ready to pounce on a couple of teams that may seem to the masses as untouchables. We’ve seen Palmetto flex their muscles already this season, and we’ll see just what they’ve got for the rest of the year. Here’s just some things that you need to know about this 2016 Palmetto Tiger team.

Palmetto is primed for another playoff run in 2016.
Palmetto is primed for another playoff run in 2016.

They’re one of three teams to be 3-0 in 7A-11 in Week Eight.

The Tigers are right up there in the hunt for an extended playoff run. In Class 7A-District 11, Palmetto is currently 3-0, 5-1 overall, with their only loss coming to Manatee. However, they did hold Manatee to seven points, but so did Venice. Venice won that game as well, scoring 42 points on the Hurricanes. “Our district is really like the SEC,” said Marino. “We can’t really focus towards games down the road, because we have to focus on the team we’re playing on Friday night. You have to go 5-0 in this district if you want to be a Champion. There’s no scenarios, nothing to work out. You have to go undefeated.”

The offense is catching up with the defense.

The offense could only score three points in that Week Two loss to Manatee, but the defense gave up none. It was a special teams touchdown that doomed the Tigers. “The offense has really been a work in progress all year,” Marino said. “The defense has been solid because of the amount of guys that we had returning. Most of our back seven, and especially straight up the middle in our two inside linebackers and safeties were back, so defensively, we’re really solid. The offense is getting there. We’re confident about their ability, just in what they’ve done over the course of the season to grow.”

They’re staying away from the injury bug to finish out the season strong.

Palmetto has been able to stay fairly healthy through seven weeks of the season, but that’s still a semi-concern for Marino. “You know, that’s our biggest concern at this point in time. Every team is going to have injuries, every team is going to to have guys out, but it’s making sure that they don’t go down at the critical point in the season.┬áNext week, when we go down to North Port, it’s all about coming out healthy, and more importantly, coming out with a win,” Marino said.

Palmetto’s Class of 2018 is a pretty special class.

Sure, it’s a win-now attitude in Palmetto, they want to win and take a district crown and make the playoffs, but there’s more than just this upcoming season. Next season is going to be another big year for the Tigers in terms of potential, but we’ll get to that point when we start talking about the 2017 season. What does it mean right now? It means that Palmetto is ready to win with the pieces they have now. “We’re not going to discount the work our seniors are putting in in their last season. They’re a valuable part of our team, although a minority, still a very valuable part. But this 2018 class is the nucleus. Most of them played as sophomores, so they’re going to have three years of experience when it’s all said and done,” Marino said. “However, we have to focus on winning now, and not worrying about next season, because a lot of times, next season never comes.”

Jason Spicer is the offensive MVP thus far according to Marino.
Jason Spicer is the offensive MVP thus far according to Marino.

The Tigers have leaders on both sides of the ball that are playing special football.

Palmetto lost a lot of guys on the offensive side of the ball, including an Under Armour All-American. It was really a rebuilding year for the offense, and they’ve proved to be good in the first seven games. “We lost our quarterback, both running backs, a couple of offensive linemen, we lost a lot, but now we’ve got Jason Spicer at QB, who’s given us a ton of leadership at the quarterback position. He’s been outstanding in his growth and maturity, and in just the level of play he’s given us in his first year. Defensively, Alonso Houston at the line-backing position has been great, he’s the center of our defense, he’s back for his junior year, and he’s been great for us. Also, having a ton of depth in the secondary has been really good,” Marino said.

Palmetto will be on the road to face North Port in a 7A-11 matchup before they take on Braden River and Venice in back-to-back weeks. Those games will be the most important in determining on who will take the crown and who will be the runner-up in that very competitive district.