Atlantic continued its season-opening gauntlet against some of the best teams in Palm Beach County on Friday night, rallying for a 21-7 road win over Park Vista in a District 10-8A game.
Atlantic (4-0, 1-0) had its hands full against an efficient Park Vista (2-3, 1-1) offense in the early going. The Cobras moved the ball well on their first few drives and took a 7-0 lead when quarterback Tyler Thomas threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Aydin Henningham.
Kalani Ilimaleota, who had taken most of the snaps at quarterback for the Eagles this season, didn’t play until the first drive of the second quarter.
“Sometimes we just want to shake things up so the kids don’t get comfortable,” Atlantic coach T.J. Jackson said. “We did some things to see how we adapt and respond to adversity.”
Once he was in the game, Ilimaleota took the Eagles on a 75-yard drive. He completed three passes, including a 33-yarder to Elani Cleckly in the corner of the end zone to tie the score.
Atlantic moved 74 yards in 10 plays on the opening drive of the second half. Ilimaleota connected with Kamareon Williams on fourth down for a 12-yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles their first lead of the game.
Late in the third quarter, Park Vista blocked a punt and took over at the Atlantic 8-yard line. But three plays later, Eagles defensive back Kael Williams picked off Thomas. Williams returned the interception 98 yards for an apparent touchdown, but the return was brought back on a penalty.
Atlantic sealed the win when Ilimaleota found Antoine Williams for a 7-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. DeAndre McCray’s interception with three minutes left ended Park Vista’s last hope.
Atlantic opened the season by defeating Palm Beach Central, Dwyer and Pahokee. With their toughest opponents behind them, the Eagles could be in prime position to make a run at an undefeated regular season.
“I’m not even looking at that, to be honest with you,” Jackson said. “I just try to take it one game at a time, one day of practice at a time, and our mindset is to just get better each day we touch the field.”
After a 40-0 loss to Dwyer in their season opener, the Cobras have hung tough in losses to Wellington and Atlantic, showing steady improvement as the season progresses.
“They competed, and we didn’t do that against Dwyer,” Park Vista coach Brian Dodds said. “That was the thing that we knew, that we had to compete tonight, and I think our kids did.”
Next week, Atlantic visits Spanish River, and the Cobras have a bye week before a district game at Boca Raton.
“If we can play like this for the rest of the way out, we’ll be fine,” Dodds said.