Palm Beach Central football rallies to force overtime, beat Pahokee in the Muck

PAHOKEE — Palm Beach Central coach Kevin Thompson gathered his players near the end zone at Anquan Boldin Field late Thursday night.

Minutes before, Nedrick Boldin plowed into that same end zone from the 1-yard line in overtime to give the Broncos a 33-30 come-from-behind victory over Pahokee.

It set off a furious on-field celebration as Palm Beach Central moved to 3-0 and capped a night in which they had trailed the mighty Blue Devils almost all evening

“I’m proud of you,’ Thompson told the group.

Indeed, there was much to be proud of as Palm Beach Central rallied from a 19-6 halftime deficit.

The Broncos made a stirring comeback in the third quarter. The Broncos grabbed a 20-19 lead late in the third before Pahokee scratched back to take a 27-20 lead early in the fourth.

And still Palm Beach Central arose on the road and in The Muck. Boldin scored on an 8-yard carry with 3:14 left, capping a 75-yard drive to create overtime.

“We just kept fighting,’ Thompson said.  “It was a great litmus test. It’s what we were preaching all week. This team is not last year. We got to be tougher. It’s a great test for them. I’m glad they passed the test.’’

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Palm Beach Central junior Brian Simon (57) gives chase to Pahokee quarterback JayJay Boyd (19) in a game on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023 in Pahokee.
Palm Beach Central junior Brian Simon (57) gives chase to Pahokee quarterback JayJay Boyd (19) in a game on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023 in Pahokee.

In overtime, each team is given a possession starting at the opponent’s 10. A tentative Pahokee squad settled for a field goal, giving the Broncos a chance to end it with a touchdown.

It took three plays for PBC to do so.

Running back Zequan Wright, who scored on a second-quarter 7-yard touchdown run and was a beast all night, powered ahead for 6 yards and 2 yards, putting it at the 2.

After yet another ill-timed Pahokee penalty - an offsides - the ball was moved to the 1 where Boldin bulled in at the stadium that carries his surname.

Boldin and Wright declined comment afterward as the team is incensed at coverage about the Wellington school’s alleged transgressions.

Palm Beach Central, state semifinalists last season, is under county investigation for alleged transfer improprieties. In addition, Palm Beach Central is under fire for allegedly mishandling sexual harassment complaints.

This week, the Broncos had their transfer quarterback Matis Gibson cleared for the Pahokee contest after an investigation into his illegal transfer.

But the team still is sticking with sophomore quarterback Caleb Butler as starter. He has the hot hand and sparked the second-half comeback.

After PBC’s Jaden Atkins intercepted Pahokee quarterback Jay Jay Boyd deep in Pahokee territory, Butler scored on a picturesque five-yard bootleg to the right corner of the end zone, cutting the deficit to 19-13 in the third period.

“He will be the starter the rest of the year,’’ Thompson said.

After the walk-off touchdown, Palm Beach Central's players galloped onto the field, hopping around jubilantly but also taunting the Pahokee players.

A brief melee ensued. The coaches agreed to forgo the traditional postgame handshakes. After several minutes, both teams settled down and the two clubs eventually greeted each other.

For a proud Pahokee program that fired its coach Emmanuel Hendrix after last year’s magical season, this was a tough pill to swallow on its home field grass field. The Blue Devils are just 2-2 and may have more questions than answers.

“Anytime you lose close, it’s really tough,’’ first-year coach Matthew Sparrowhawk said. “Sometimes it comes down to one or two things. It is tough. It is disappointing. But the effort was pleasing. it does hurt. It stings when you spend all the time working and you’re so close.’’

Gigantic penalties did in Pahokee – two encroachment calls on fourth-down plays that kept alive PBC drives, including the game-tying one in the final minutes. A roughing the passer penalty also enhanced that last drive.

“We had several opportunities late in the second half to get off the field,’’ Sparrowhawk said. “It extended the drives and it’s deflating.’’

The biggest concern for the football power that has produced so many NFL players is the offensive line and the inexperience of Boyd, who took over as starter from sophomore Xavier Mitchell following the season-opening loss at Santaluces.

Boyd threw four touchdown tosses but two of them were on screen plays. Mike Brown and running back Jenorris Wilcher Jr. caught TD passes and Kentucky commit Hardley Gilmore secured two.

The second one by Gilmore put Pahokee in front 27-20 on the first play of the fourth quarter as he caught a screen in the middle of the field, broke a tackle and sprinted into the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown catch.

On the downside, Boyd threw that costly interception and made a gaffe on a late fourth-quarter drive going for the win. Boyd tried to stop the clock by kneeling down instead of spiking it to the ground.

“There’s still things for him to learn,’’ Sparrowhawk said.

Palm Beach Central football
Palm Beach Central football

In addition, there’s three key injuries on the offensive line, including standout Wilfred Demenzer.

Sparrowhawk didn’t have enough faith in the offense in overtime when faced with a fourth-and-five and chose the field goal. The series was damaged by false start after Wilcher put them in good position with a 6-yard blast on first down at the 10.

“Our defense played well throughout,’’ Sparrowhawk said. “You got to give them a chance. If you go for it and don’t get it all they have to do is kick a field goal and you lose. And it’s basically an extra point.’’

As Gilmore walked off the field, he said, “It was good, hard-fought game. We lost by 3 and had a lot of penalties. Just have to work harder next game.’’

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Palm Beach Central football rallies to beat Pahokee in the Muck