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Quarterback’s play key to Atlantic’s bid for state final berth

Antoine Williams had an inauspicious start as Atlantic’s quarterback.

Williams, who transferred from Seminole Ridge in the offseason, began the year as the Eagles’ quarterback against Palm Beach Central. In his first game, he threw four interceptions as the Broncos escaped with a 14-13 win.

Atlantic hasn’t lost since, and now the Eagles are one game away from a berth in the Class 8A state championship. They play Miami High at home in the semifinal game at 7:30 p.m. Friday

“I’m actually glad that we lost a game, because we had a big head and thought we were all that,” Williams said. “We just worked harder. Worked harder in practice, worked harder on the field.”

Atlantic will have to rely on Williams’ arm this week. Starting running back Shelley Singletary will likely miss his second week in a row with a shoulder injury. When Singletary was out for last week’s 35-22 victory over Davie-Western, the Eagles handed it off 20 times, with the carries being split between six players. More players got touches as Atlantic ran away with the game.

Williams, a senior, had a solid game last week, going 14-for-27 for 157 yards and a touchdown and an interception. But he didn’t have to do too much, as wide receiver Oyeh Lury-Davis opened the game with a kick-return touchdown, and Atlantic had two interceptions returned for scores.

If this game was being played in Week 1, then the Eagles would be in trouble. It took Williams a while to mesh with Atlantic’s offense when he first got to the team.

“At first, it was hard,” Williams said. “I didn’t remember none of the plays, but I started studying, studying hard. And it just came to me.”

Coach T.J Jackson went even further, saying Williams and fellow transfer quarterback Kalani Ilimaleota “were basically freshmen” going into the season.

But in October, with a victory securing a district championship, Williams turned the corner. Against Boca Raton, Ilimaleota got the start. But when he struggled, Williams got the call.

“He really came into his own,” Jackson said. “We left him in a little longer, as well. … Just let him play through his mistakes.”

Williams finished the game 10-of-14 through the air for 172 yards with four touchdowns, including a final one to receiver Cadarius Gaskin that ended with most of the team celebrating in the end zone.

“He grew a lot since the first game,” wide receiver Corey Gammage said. “He was a bit shakey as first, but as the games (went on), he learned the coverages and everything.”

It doesn’t hurt that Williams has one of the best receiving corps in South Florida to throw to. Lining up on any given play are senior Florida Gators commit Gammage, Gaskin (No. 11 on The Post’s Big Board), Lurry-Davis (No. 17) and big-time sophomore prospect Aydin Henningham.

“I’ve been working on working with my receivers,” Williams said. “Working on getting them the ball.”

Williams is likely the key to Friday’s state semifinal. If he gets those receivers the ball, Atlantic is in good shape. If not, the Eagles could be in trouble.

“Come out strong,” Williams said of the key to Friday’s game. “Come out strong and fast, and we have to execute on third downs and fourth downs.”

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