PALM BAY – It may be too early to call it a trend, but the Heritage High football team has found the fourth quarter to its liking in three out of three games.
The Panthers scored on a 17-yard pass play from Willie Gaines to Brian Nieves in the final minute for a 13-7 win over Eau Gallie in the District 14-6A opener for both teams.
Nieves bulled his way into the end zone for the winning touchdown with 41 seconds showing on the clock. The Commodores (2-2, 0-1) took the kickoff and neared midfield, but Ra’Shard Farmer intercepted a pass with 23 seconds to play, sealing the victory.
“The defense shifted to the right, and I was on the left,” Nieves said of his second game-winning play at home this season. “(Gaines) told me to ust run a stop route, and I was one-on-one with the corner.”
In the opener against Merritt Island, he had taken a handoff from Gaines and thrown a touchdown pass into the same end zone. Then, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Week 2, the Panthers trailed Dakota Ridge of Littleton, Colo., before a fourth-quarter comeback kept their record unbeaten.
Heritage was off last week but improved to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in 14-6A by beating Eau Gallie.
“Sometimes you come off a by week looking crisp,” Panthers coach Mark Ainsley said. “Tonight, we looked a little rusty.”
Penalties twice erased Heritage touchdowns, while the Commodores had their own problems in the red zone. A field goal that would have given them a fourth-quarter lead was wide left, and after Eau Gallie drove to the Panthers 9 and then went backward on their opening drive, a field goal attempt hit the cross bar and bounced back into the end zone.
“I thought their offensive line, their tackles owned our defensive ends,” Ainsley said. “They’re going to make some noise in the district.”
Next week, it’s the Commodores with the off week. Heritage will host Class 8A’s second-ranked team, Kissimmee Osceola.
Heritage 13, Eau Gallie 7
EG 0 0 7 0 – 7
Heritage 0 0 7 6 – 13
EG: Darin Garland 13 run (Matt Stephens kick), 10:34
H: Avery Oates 9 pass from Willie Gaines (Matthew Adams kick), 3:58
H: Brian Nieves 17 pass from Gaines (kick failed), :41
Rushing: EG – Jack Gallo 11-26, Garland 15-64, Nate McRae 9-22, John Hampton 2-5; H – Gaines 9-38, Nieves 4-47, Oates 11-36, Jayquan Martin 3-7, Negail Wright 4-11, Amarion Gaines 1-(-3).
Passing: EG – Gallo 5-14-2 63; H – Gaines 10-15-1 197.
Receiving: EG – Garland 3-29, Nathaniel Lavoie 1-27, McRae 1-7; H – Nieves 3-64, Oates 2-17, Lawrence Santos-Sim 2-59, Trevor Phillips 1-(-1), Jason Miller 1-28, Tyree Parks 1-30.