To call the first 45 minutes of Palmetto Ridge’s 22-20 win over Immokalee a letdown wouldn’t be fair to the Indians.
Yes, Friday’s game was sandwiched between an emotional district win over Barron Collier last week and a hyped district showdown with Naples next week. On top of that, there was the distraction of homecoming.
But what happened was the Bears took Immokalee’s best shot, which consisted of containing running back Jaheem Washington and forcing them to drive 79 yards with 3 minutes to play to beat it.
Senior quarterback Cody Young and the Palmetto Ridge offense didn’t fold. He led his team on a 12-play drive capped by a Washington 12-yard touchdown on fourth-and-6 to stay undefeated.
The Bears will carry 6-0 record into Staver Field next week for a game that will probably decide the District 6A-12 championship.
They spent most of Friday on their heels.
“We came out flat,” Bears first-year coach Chris Toukonen said. “I take full responsibility for that. That can’t happen again.”
A week after nearly blowing an 18-point lead against Barron, Palmetto Ridge managed just a field goal in the first half, but held a double-digit lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Immokalee front seven held Washington, who is among the state’s leading rushers, to 54 yards on 12 carries in the first half. At halftime the senior took a ride in a horse-drawn carriage and was crowned Palmetto Ridge’s homecoming king.
He finished with 163 yards and three touchdowns, numbers first-year coach Immokalee coach Dale More could live with.
“He didn’t get 250,” More said.
After getting gashed by Washington on the first drive of the fourth, More moved kick returner Shedro Louis up to where Palmetto Ridge sky kicks had been landing all game. Louis took the kick to the Bears 35 to set up a touchdown pass from Mac Joseph to Jean Sanon on the next play, cutting the lead to 16-13.
The Indians then forced a three-and-out.
Joseph went 3-for-5 passing for 63 yards and ran for 21 more during the go-ahead drive capped by Malcolm Jackson’s plunge into the end zone with 5 minutes remaining.
Indians defensive back Tharique Toussaint got his finger tips on a Young pass on the ensuing Palmetto Ridge drive and a defensive lineman blew up a screen pass to force a punt. A short Immokalee offensive series left the Bears 3 minutes to get down the field.
Young finished with a lackluster statistical line — 9-for-22, 142 yards — but bailed his team out on a bad snap that could have left Palmetto Ridge way behind the sticks with the clock running. Instead he ran after the snap, fielded it and scrambled before throwing it away.
Two plays later he hit Brett Anderson on a post to move into the red zone.
“The drive just went by so quick. I can barely remember it,” Young said. “This wasn’t a district game, but we needed to win this. We knew we were the better team and we needed to prove that.”
An incomplete pass and two Washington runs had Palmetto Ridge looking at fourth-and-6 from the Immokalee 12. Washington shook off two defenders on his way past the goal line.
“We just missed him,” More said.
Immokalee’s last-ditch effort ended in with a Dominique Linton interception.
“We played with a lot of passion and a chip on our shoulder,” said More, whose team faces a district game at Mariner next week. “But it’s next week that matters. We’re back to Week 2 of district play. That’s why we played this type of game tonight.”
Immokalee 0 | 3 | 3 | 14 | FINAL 20
Palmetto Ridge 0 | 3 | 7 | 12 | FINAL 22
Immokalee: Elias Cuevas 27 field goal
Palmetto Ridge: Cameron Taylor 35 field goal
Palmetto Ridge: Jaheem Washington 3 run (Taylor kick)
Immokalee: Cuevas 29 field goal
Palmetto Ridge: Washington 5 run (kick blocked)
Immokalee: Jean Sanon 35 pass from Mac Joseph (Cuevas kick)
Immokalee: Malcolm Jackson 1 run (Cuevas kick)
Palmetto Ridge: Washington 12 run (kick failed)