- Steve Dorsey Special to The Post
Days, weeks, maybe even months from now, Palm Beach Central players, coaches and fans likely will still be scratching their heads, wondering how the Broncos lost Friday night.
The visiting Davie-Western Wildcats, unable to do much of anything on offense against a stout Palm Beach Central defense for three quarters, staged a stunning fourth-quarter rally to defeat the Broncos 14-12 in a Class 8A regional playoff game.
Western trailed 12-0 entering the fourth quarter, but two touchdown runs by Keshaun Clarke lifted the Wildcats to the remarkable comeback victory, denying Palm Beach Central its first trip to a regional championship game.
Clarke’s game-winning touchdown was a 3-yard run with 58.4 seconds remaining in the game after Western had converted on three fourth-down situations to keep the winning drive alive. The big blow to Central was a pass interference call against the Broncos on a fourth-down play that gave Western a first down at the Central 29-yard line. Four plays later, Clarke bulled his way into the end zone.
Central took the ensuing kickoff and quickly moved the ball to the Western 32, but Broncos quarterback Nick Atkins, who passed for 193 yards and two touchdowns, was sacked as the final seconds ticked off the clock and Central out of timeouts.
“I don’t know what to say. It hurts,” Central coach Tino Ierulli said after speaking to his players, many with tears in their eyes. “They put their heart and soul into it.”
The game was marred by an excessive amount of penalties issued by the officiating crew from Miami-Dade County. The teams were flagged for a combined 257 yards in penalties, with Central incurring 145 yards on 14 infractions.
Palm Beach Central’s defense completely shut down Western’s running game in the first half and limited the Wildcats to only 4 yards rushing as the Broncos took a 12-0 lead into the locker room.
Both of Central’s scores in the first half came on touchdown passes from Atkins. The first went for 30 yards to Bryan Robinson four minutes into the second quarter. Atkins then connected with Fornoris Roberts for 39 yards after Central’s Akeem Dent grabbed the first of his two first-half interceptions.
Central (8-3) had three possessions on Western’s side of midfield in the second half, but the Broncos were unable to reach the end zone again. Clarke’s first touchdown for Western came five plays after a short punt by Central gave the Wildcats the ball at the Broncos’ 27-yard line early in the fourth quarter.