JENSEN BEACH — Jensen Beach junior running back Dennis Palmer Jr. had a message for his offensive line hours before Friday’s playoff game against Port St. Lucie.
“I just told them, ‘I just need a couple blocks up front and I can do the rest,'” Palmer said.
Palmer got the blocks he needed to produce his first ever four-touchdown performance in the Falcons’ 51-12 rout of the Jaguars in a Region 3-3S quarterfinal game.
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The second-seeded Falcons, who won their second playoff game in program history, will host the winner of Saturday’s game between No. 3 Sebring and No. 6 Merritt Island next week.
Palmer scored twice in each half, including a pair of rushing scores in the third quarter. He capped his night with a 64-yard touchdown run one play after a Jamari Marshall interception to give Jensen Beach (9-2) a 32-12 lead.
“I saw it,” Palmer said. “They were over-pursuing to one side, so I knew as I got the ball that the cutback was going to be open and that’s what happened.
“This (win) means everything. We still got more work to do. The job’s not finished.”
Dy’Lond Holmes added two rushing touchdowns for Jensen Beach. The Falcons also got touchdowns from wide receiver Nick Venezia and a fumble return by Brayden Rambo.
Port St. Lucie senior running back Saleem Felder scored both of the Jaguars’ touchdowns, including a 95-yard run in the third quarter to cut the Falcons’ lead to six. The Jaguars end the season 5-5.
Takeaways for Jensen Beach
Dennis Palmer is special
Palmer continues to show why he recently picked up an offer from Florida Atlantic. He is a complete back who is a difference-maker in both the run and pass games. He has the ability to make guys miss but also understands when to be patient to wait for blocks or accelerate. He missed a fifth score by about two yards early in the fourth quarter before sitting down for the night. Palmer will be the focal point of every defensive game plan for the rest of the playoffs, which should create play-action opportunities.
Takeaways put the game away
It’s not clear from the final score, but Jensen Beach led 18-12 midway through the third quarter. The difference in the second-half avalanche was the Falcons’ defense taking the ball away and the offense capitalizing. Marshall’s interception came one play after the defense forced a Port St. Lucie fumble that the Jaguars recovered. The Falcons recovered two fumbles in the fourth quarter, including Rambo’s 31-yard defensive score. The Falcons also recovered a pair of onside kicks — one in each half.
Penalties need to be cleaned up
As good as Jensen Beach was, the Falcons helped Port St. Lucie stay around in the first half with penalties. The Jaguars’ first scoring drive was aided by two pass-interference penalties. The Falcons’ offense wasn’t exactly without fault as they turned a first-and-10 on the Port St. Lucie 39 opportunity into a third-and-59 at their own 12 hole. That was aided by a hold and two additional personal fouls. There will be closer games for Jensen Beach and it can’t afford to hurt itself as it did Friday.
Takeaways for Port St. Lucie
Saleem Felder capped a brilliant career with another big game
Felder topped the 100-yard mark (again), hit the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season and scored his 17th and 18th touchdowns of the year. The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder, ranked No. 11 on the TCPalm Super 11, runs hard between the tackles and needed just a little crease to score on his 95-yard run.
The Falcons’ secondary kept them in it early
Jensen Beach wanted to throw vertical and took some shots downfield, but Port St. Lucie’s secondary limited most of those opportunities and helped the defense generate four sacks through the first 2½ quarters. Those sacks were coverage sacks as Jensen Beach quarterback Gio Cascione was looking downfield but couldn’t find any open receivers, allowing the Port St. Lucie pass rush to get home.
Port St. Lucie’s senior class should take a bow
Port St. Lucie went to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. For longtime Treasure Coast residents, that’s a stunning sentence. Last year’s team won the school’s first district title since 1990 and snapped a 31-year playoff skid in the process. This team was different as it didn’t win its district but earned the No. 7 seed as an at-large team. In the past, Port St. Lucie would find itself hoping to sneak into the playoffs as a district runner-up in a weak district. The FHSAA put a stop to that with its power ranking system and the Jaguars earned their way back into the postseason. Sure, it didn’t end the way they were hoping, but this still is a big accomplishment for coach Chris Dent and the program.