Seminole Ridge 17, Royal Palm Beach 14: Hawks ride seven-game winning streak into playoffs
Friday, November 09, 2012
by Jeff Greer
Seminole Ridge coach Matt Dickmann knew his team's season-ending "Best of the West" rivalry game at Royal Palm Beach would provide the kind of playoff atmosphere he craved to prepare his players for next week's postseason opener.
And sixth-ranked Seminole Ridge's 17-14 win over ninth-ranked Royal Palm Beach was every bit as intense and instructional as he'd hoped, maybe even a little more. It wasn't until Ridge running back E.J. Elien cradled a make-or-break onside kick with 31 seconds to play that the Hawks sealed their hard-earned win.
"(Royal Palm Beach) is a playoff-caliber team," said Dickmann, who's guided Ridge to four consecutive playoff berths. "They're the best team (in Palm Beach County) not in the playoffs. I thought for us it's great to play a team like that going into next week."
Now Seminole Ridge (7-2) can turn its attention to its regional quarterfinal next Friday at home against eighth-ranked Park Vista, which stifled the Hawks in their season opener back in September.
Elien (75 rushing yards) had help from Elie Turene (65 yards, two touchdowns) and Silas Spearman (62 yards) as Ridge's running game relentlessly wore down ninth-ranked Royal Palm Beach, which was missing several linemen because of injuries. The ability to go inside and out with each of those backs -- and an ever-improving offensive line -- has been the difference during Ridge's seven-game winning streak that followed two losses to start the campaign.
"It was emotionally draining because those losses were hard," said Spearman, a senior. "We thought we were better than we were. We had to get back to the basics."
Royal Palm Beach (5-4) made it a game with a late 1-yard touchdown pass from Ant McGrew to Alon Sims, but it took the Wildcats so long to score, they were forced into an onside kick. They'd stalled inside Ridge's 10-yard line for more than a minute.
McGrew was 14-of-29 for 145 yards and the touchdown. He had to throw more than usual because of the injuries to his team's big boys.
But considering the circumstances, and the emotional drain from last Saturday's playoff-hopes-ending loss to Dwyer, Royal Palm Beach coach Willie Bueno was proud of his group.
The Wildcats burst back onto the area football scene last fall with a 7-4 season and a playoff berth, and though they missed this year's postseason, Bueno senses his team is close to clearing the last hurdle.
"Last year we lose that game by two touchdowns," he said. "We've closed the gap. But we have to get bigger and stronger from here."