MELBOURNE Gradually, things return to normal. Electricity gets turned back on. Downed tree branches get taken to the curb to be picked up.
And, at Palm Bay, the Pirates are back at the top of their football district after three years without a title.
Palm Bay, 7-0 overall and ranked fourth in Class 5A, turned around a 10-point deficit for a 27-10 win over Merritt Island on Friday, improving to 4-0 in District 14 with one game to go. The Pirates can’t be caught, and they will enter the regional playoffs on Nov. 11 at home.
The chances of it happening seemed to be slipping away late in the first half. Merritt Island converted a third-and-8 from its own 43 on a short pass from Jimmy Batch to Deben Peterson. Peterson sidestepped a defender, broke a tackle and was headed for the end zone and a 10-point lead, but Pirates cornerback Lamont Meikle made up enough ground to tackle him at the 1.
On the next play, Palm Bay’s Shavaughnie Robinson recovered a fumble to keep the Pirates within a field goal at halftime.
“I just knew I could make the play, so I didn’t want to give up,” Meikle said. The defense then shut out the Mustangs in the second half. “We knew what we had to do, so we had a talk with each other and knew we had to step up.”
B.J. Daniels had perhaps his biggest game at Palm Bay, rushing for 202 yards and three touchdowns. With Dez Arthur and Ken McKay providing different looks and the Pirates offensive line gradually turning the tide against the Merritt Island defense, holes began to open.
“The guys up front did a great job,” Palm Bay quarterback Stuart Brown said. “For them to be so young, I’m so proud of those guys.”
Brown, who hasn’t thrown an interception this season, completed six passes in eight attempts, the biggest a 41-yarder to A.J. Dotti that moved Palm Bay to the Mustangs 13 late in the third. Daniels scored his first touchdown from the 10, and when he added a 12-yarder midway through the fourth, Palm Bay had a two-score advantage.
He broke open for a 49-yarder in the final minute. Arthur scored the first touchdown for Palm bay on a 28-yard run.
Batch passed for 235 yards, completing 11 of 16 passes, one for a touchdown of 38 yards to Peterson.
That opened the scoring for both teams in the first period, and Mason Denaburg added a 24-yard field goal in the second quarter.
The Mustangs (5-3, 3-1) can claim the runner-up spot in 14-5A with a win at Rockledge next week. If the Raiders win and Titusville beats Space Coast the same night, Rockledge, Merritt Island and Titusville would be tied for second.
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PALM BAY 27, MERRITT ISLAND 10
MI 7 3 0 0 – 10
PB 0 7 7 13 – 27
MI: Deben Peterson 38 pass from Jimmy batch (Mason Denaburg kick), 3:40
MI: Denaburg 24 FG, 6:30
PB: Dez Arthur 28 run (Justin Bellows kick), 4:24
PB: BJ Daniels 10 run (Bellows kick), 1:31
PB: Daniels 12 run (Bellows kick), 7:47
PB: Daniels 49 run (kick failed), 0:53
Rushing: MI – 16-37, Rydell Peterson 12-31, D. Peterson 3-11; PB – Daniels 25-202, Arthur 7-53, Ken McKay 12-41.
Passing: MI – Batch 11-16-0 236; PB – Stuart Brown 6-8-0 81.
Receiving: MI – Connor Allen 4-48, D. Peterson 3-95, Jake Martin 2-52, R. Peterson 1-21, Denaburg 1-20; PB – A.J. Dotti 1-41, Arthur 2-20, Cordae Lewis 2-20, McKay 1-0.