The Palm Bay Pirates exploded for 49 points in the first half on Friday night en route to a 56-7 blowout of the South Fork Bulldogs in the Class 6A Regional Quarterfinals.
The Pirates (7-4) were coming off of a stunning loss to Treasure Coast last week in which they allowed three touchdowns in the final three minutes. After the win, Palm Bay head coach Dan Burke stressed that this was just one game and kept referring to the loss in the regular-season finale.
“We tried to get things back in line like we used to do things,” Burke said in his team’s preparation for South Fork. “So we went from playing some of the worst football I’ve ever seen, to playing some better ball for us.
“Like I said it’s a Jekyll and Hyde team. You can’t get too excited about this because a week ago, I saw them (his team) play awful.”
Palm Bay set the tone early as they marched 86 yards on eight plays on their first drive of the night, which was capped off by a 26-yard run by B.J. Ross.
After forcing South Fork (9-2) to go three and out, the Pirates scored on a quick two-play drive that ended with a 57-yard pass from Brian Fallace to Caleb Alves.
The Bulldogs would then make it a 14-7 game as Uzziah Davis took the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown. South Fork looked as if they were getting back into the game as Leroy Berry fumbled the kickoff in the end zone and then decided to take the ball out and was stopped at his own 4-yard line.
Any momentum that South Fork thought they had went out the door on Palm Bay’s first play from scrimmage as Ross burst through the middle of the line and went 96 yards for the score to give the Pirates a 21-7 lead as they would not look back.
The Pirates also benefitted from a failed fake punt by the Bulldogs and two kickoffs that took wild bounces off of South Fork players, both of which the Pirates recovered. Palm Bay turned all three of those South Fork miscues into touchdowns.
Palm Bay scored touchdowns on all seven of its drives in the first half and their running game was a huge part of that as they dashed for 273 yards on the ground in the first two quarters.
Berry, who sat last week, looked as if he hadn’t missed a beat as he ran for 103 yards on 16 carries. Berry scored two touchdowns in the second quarter and like most of the Palm Bay starters, he accumulated the vast majority of his reps in the first half.
The Pirates will now turn their attention to Heritage, which will be a rematch of the Week 10 game that gave Palm Bay the district title and ended the Panthers’ (10-1) perfect season.
“We respect Heritage,” Burke said. “They have a great program and it’s going to be a good game.”