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Spring football: Palm Beach Gardens pulls away from Glades Central

A new era at Palm Beach Gardens kicked off Friday night with a positive outcome as the Gators defeated visiting Glades Central 35-21 to close out spring drills for both programs.

It was the first game for Billy Clark as head coach at Gardens.

“Any team is a work in progress, especially in spring, but we’re excited with how many talented young kids we have,” said Clark, who takes the reins of a program for the first time after being an assistant for the Gators the past two years.

After a sluggish first three quarters, Palm Beach Gardens’ offense got untracked in the fourth quarter on a couple of long touchdown runs by DaQuan Hamilton and Xavier Etienne. Hamilton’s 79-yard scoring run regained the lead for Gardens after Glades Central had stormed back from a 16-7 deficit. Etienne’s 65-yard run extended the Gators’ lead to 28-21.

Jermaine Cox’s 30-yard interception return for a touchdown with 3:42 remaining sealed the victory for Gardens.

“We want to instill a new culture of hard work and accountability, on and off the field,” Clark said.

It also was the first game back on the sideline of his alma mater for Glades Central’s Jessie Hester, who was let go from the Raiders’ job more than six years ago despite compiling a 36-4 record over three seasons. Mediocrity, by Glades Central standards, ensued the past few years, however, as the Raiders compiled a 24-11 record the past three seasons, and now Hester is back on the sidelines for the Raiders.

“Pleasantly well,” Hester said of his first spring drills since he left Glades Central the last time. “The kids have been very receptive to myself and my staff. Overall, it’s one of the most talented teams I’ve ever had, and that says a lot. We’re just inexperienced.”

Kevin Purnell scored two touchdowns for Gardens, the second one on a 3-yard run to open the fourth quarter and give the Gators a 16-7 lead. But Steven Barrett’s 3-yard scoring run and a 74-yard touchdown pass from Sabata Bridges to James Davis gave Glades Central a 21-16 lead that was fleeting, as the long runs by Hamilton and Etienne put Gardens back on top to stay.

Both teams scored touchdowns on their respective first possession of the game. Palm Beach Gardens opened the game with a 78-yard scoring drive that culminated on a 23-yard touchdown run by Purnell to give the Gators a 7-0 lead.

Glades Central quickly answered when quarterback Jaeze Tracey connected with Jymetre Hester on a 63-yard touchdown pass to tie the score.

The defenses dominated the remainder of the first half, but Jeff Olsen booted a 25-yard field goal just before the end of the second quarter to give a Gardens a 10-7 lead at halftime.

King’s Academy 28, John I. Leonard 10: Justin Wake threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, leading the Lions over the Lancers in Greenacres.

Cardinal Newman 46, Everglades Prep Academy 0: E.J. Jackson ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns, and also threw a touchdown pass to Armani Hayes to lead the Crusaders to the rout of the Panthers.

Somerset Canyons 35, Inlet Grove 0: Michael Maignan had a 12-yard touchdown reception and also returned an interception 33 yards for another score, leading the Cougars over the Hurricanes.

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