ROCKLEDGE For all of its complexities, sometimes football is an easy game.
Palm Bay forced six turnovers in its game against Rockledge while only turning it over once.
It’s nearly impossible for a team plus-five in turnover margin to lose, and that certainly showed itself to be true on Friday evening as the Pirates blanked Rockledge, 24-0, in both teams’ District 14-5A opener.
“Our defense can fly around. At times they bend but we always know at some point they’re going to force a turnover or keep them out of the end zone,” said Palm Bay head coach Dan Burke.
“They give us a hard time in practice, believe me,” said Palm Bay quarterback Stuart Brown on his defense. “It’s rough on 3rd and 8. We have a 3rd and 8 drill and I don’t think they could make it any worse for us. That front four is dangerous and the DBs are just as dangerous as well. I’m very proud. It was a great team win. I’m proud of everybody on this team, coaching staff and everyone.”
Despite coming in as an underdog, Rockledge (1-2, 0-1 in district play) more or less stood toe-to-toe with Palm Bay (3-0, 1-0) in in the first half, but was hamstrung by the three turnovers.
Palm Bay took advantage, scoring 10 points off of two turnovers.
The first of their scores came courtesy of a 24-yard field goal by Justin Bellows that followed an interception. The second came following a Pirate fumble recovery as, on 4th-and-9 from the Rockledge 23-yard line, Brown found Dez Arthur on a touchdown pass late in the second quarter.
The Raiders were fairly plucky on this night, however, and responded with a drive down inside the 10-yard line. But that drive also ended with a miscue as Palm Bay picked off a pass to quell another Raider threat.
In the second half, it was more of the same with Rockledge’s third interception thwarting a promising drive in the third quarter. On the ensuing play, however, they got the ball back on a fumble recovery deep in their own territory at the end of a long Palm Bay passing play to keep their hopes alive.
But the Raider offense simply couldn’t muster much after that and the defense finally broke, with Brown finding Tyrese Lyons on a 38-yard pass that set up a 2-yard scamper by B.J. Daniels that put the Pirates up 17-0.
Brown credited the offensive line with playing a huge role in the team’s offensive success.
“It just starts with the guys up front. I mean, I’m really proud of those guys,” Brown said.
Ken McKay concluded scoring with a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Daniels ran 140 yards and a touchdown on 21 yards. Jalen Mitchell provided most of the Raiders’ offense, running for 142 yards on 24 carries.
Burke was pleased that his team was able to open district play with a win on the road.
“We’re happy with the win. Rockledge had a good plan, did a good job,” Burke said.
“Especially a district game, it’s big for us. Those district games count,” Brown added.
Both teams have non-district matchups next week. Palm Bay will host Melbourne while Rockledge will take a long bus ride to Tallahasee to face Godby.
Palm Bay 24, Rockledge 0
Palm Bay 0 10 0 14 – 24
Rockledge 0 0 0 0 – 0
PB: Justin Bellows 24 field goal; 11:50
PB: Dez Arthur 23 pass from Stuart Brown (Bellows kick); 1:50
PB: B.J. Daniels 2 run (Bellows kick), 7:26
PB: Ken McKay 35 interception return (Bellows kick); 3:37
Passing: Palm Bay- Stuart Brown 4-8-121 yards (TD); Rockledge: Eric Adler 1-7-26 yards (2 INT), Will Carter 4-4 23 yards, LaQuentin Hastie, Jr. 1-2-18 yards, Cameron Latham 1-6-1 yard (2 INT).
Rushing: Palm Bay- BJ Daniels 21-140 yards (TD), Ken McKay 8-38, Dez Arthur 4-11, Brown 2-(-2); Rockledge: Jalen Mitchell 24-142 (2 fumbles), LaQuentin Hastie, Jr. 13-50, Latham 2-8, Adler 1-(-10)
Receiving: Palm Bay- 3-83 (TD) (fumble), Tyrese Lyons 1-38; Rockledge- Antoine Green 3-45 yards, Audreal Johnson 4-23 yards