- Adam Lichtenstein Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
The two teams shook hands, and then the only sounds left were the Doral Academy Firebirds celebrating and the muffled sobs from the Dwyer huddle.
It took a few minutes for the Panthers to collect themselves and for their coaches to address them. Dwyer coach Jack Daniels took time to try to console some of the most visibly upset players, then he spoke to his team following its 6-5 loss to Doral in the Class 7A regional semifinals.
“I can’t say anything to make them feel better,” he said. “It’s just part of coaching and part of playing sports. You can’t win all the time.
“We’ve had a difficult time dealing with losses. I think we’ve gotten better at it — probably because we’ve lost a little bit more — but it’s not something you want to accept and not do anything about.”
Neither team scored a single touchdown Friday night, but the Firebirds’ two field goals from Christian Ramirez, including the 19-yard game-winner with about 32 seconds left, bested the Panthers’ field goal and safety.
Doral, running a pass-heavy offense that features junior Miami commit Brieon Fuller, couldn’t complete many passes early in the game. The Dwyer defense held quarterback Miles Hayes to 12-of-36 passing for 188 yards, 76 of which came on his final three completions.
The Panthers’ defense kept them in the contest throughout the game. After Dwyer quarterback Trevor Omans threw an interception on the team’s first drive and Doral defensive lineman Chris Hernandez took it to the Panthers’ 3-yard line, the Dwyer defense (aided by penalties) pushed the Firebirds back and forced them to punt.
Even on Doral’s eventual game-winning drive, the Panthers pushed the Firebirds back from the Dwyer 5 to the 15. Unfortunately for Dwyer, Hayes connected on a pass that set up the game-securing, chip-shot field goal from 19 yards out.
“We’ve continuously got better throughout the year,” Daniels said. “We don’t lose that many guys there, so there’s a bunch of good players that got game reps this year coming back.”
Unfortunately for the Panthers, they didn’t do much better moving the ball. Although they got deep in Firebird territory a couple times, one drive ended with a punt from the Doral 27 and another ended with an interception.
“We had some scoring opportunities where we ended up throwing some picks,” Daniels said. “I don’t know if they changed the coverages up or what.”
The Panthers have not advanced past the Class 7A regional semifinals since they won the state championship in 2013, but they have a young team that will return most of its key players.
“Younger guys have got to remember this feeling for when workouts start,” Daniels said.