Wildcats knock out Palmetto, advance to third round in regional football


Floyd Etienne

The Wildcats take the field in Homestead before facing Miami Palmetto High School on Nov. 14.

Round two of the playoffs kicked off as the Wildcats played Miami Palmetto at Harris Field. Playing on home turf, Palmetto had the fan advantage, but the team didn’t let that phase them. The game started 30 minutes late due to transportation issues, giving the Wildcats minimal time to warm up and prepare.

The game began with Palmetto receiving the ball, but the Wildcat defense held strong. Freshman quarterback Collin Hurst came out for this away game and was prepared to lead the team to a victory. Billed as a defensive battle, the team’s first possession resulted in a punt. At the end of the first quarter, Palmetto failed to achieve anything on the offensive side of the ball.

Going into the second quarter, the team was looking to score the first points of the game, trying to turn the defensive face off into an offensive match. Later in the possession, they went against a fourth down, but it was nothing new for Hurst. After the snap, Hurst dropped back and threw a 30-yard pass to senior Kauran St. Louis, who shifted his body in midair to make the catch.

“We didn’t know that Collin was going to be our starting quarterback. We felt like we were going to perform much better, even though we knew it was going to be a hard test,” coach Adam Ratkevich said.

Hurst’s connection secured the first down and placed the team only five yards away from the goal line. In the next play, Hurst spotted wideout senior Shamarr Wright for a six-yard touchdown. Despite being up by seven, they knew the game wasn’t over yet.

The next possession for Palmetto resulted in a touchdown, tying the game up. The Wildcats switched to an offensive play, but struggled to succeed, turning the ball over by a failed pitch to senior halfback Miles Friday. Palmetto quickly recovered and was ready to take the lead. Fortunate for the Wildcats, they have a five star recruit and the number one safety in the nation, junior James Williams, who made a defensive play, intercepting Palmetto. This was Williams’s sixth interception of the season, although it failed to produce any points on the board. 

With the quarter almost over and both teams making defensive stops, Palmetto came out with a field goal. They had a seven point lead with one minute left in the half. With 30 seconds left, Hurst snapped the ball and saw receiver senior Johnny Hoffman slanting into the touchdown, though he didn’t catch the ball. 

“I dropped the ball, but my teammates were very positive with me and said I’ll get [it] next time,” Hoffman said.

In one first plays of the third quarter, Hurst saw Hoffman–and this time–Hoffman caught the ball, breaking two tackles to run 50 yards for a touchdown, redeeming himself from his earlier mistake.

“I told you guys, I had y’all,” Hoffman said. 

With the fourth quarter starting, Hurst connected with Friday, which resulted in a 30-yard play. The next play, Hurst found St. Louis and the team scored another touchdown. On the fourth down, the Wildcats put defensive back junior Omar Simpson into the game. Hurst threw the ball, Simpson caught it, and another touchdown was added for the team, making it 21 to 13. 

Two yards away from six more points, Palmetto received the ball. With the fourth quarter winding down, Palmetto snapped the ball and fumbled it, due to the work of senior offensive linebacker Kevin Izquierdo. The Wildcats punted the ball, giving Palmetto a chance for redemption. Palmetto scored a touchdown with the Palmetto receiver making a one handed touchdown. Down 19-21, Palmetto needed to tie up the game to send it to overtime. Wildcats defense needed to seal any chance of a Palmetto victory, which they did.

The Wildcats walked into Palmetto’s backyard as the underdog and not only got a huge win, but also avenged their Aug. 15 pre-season loss. 

The Wildcats will take on second seeded Columbus High School on Thursday at Tropical Park.