Home Sports Vero Beach fights off Harmony, Centennial bows out in regional quarterfinals to Melbourne

Vero Beach fights off Harmony, Centennial bows out in regional quarterfinals to Melbourne

Vero Beach fights off Harmony, Centennial bows out in regional quarterfinals to Melbourne

Region 3-4S Quarterfinals

Vero Beach 24, Harmony 14

Circumstances out of their hands placed Vero Beach with an unusual Saturday regional quarterfinal game and when it came to crunch time, they needed to make a play to fend off a pesky Harmony club.

Throwing a pass anywhere in the vicinity of Florida State wide receiver commit Vandrevius Jacobs is usually a good decision for a big play to be made and the senior did what he does best.

Jacobs hauled in a 37-yard touchdown from freshman EJ White with 1:18 remaining to secure Vero Beach’s 24-14 victory over the Longhorns to advance to next week’s regional semifinals.

“It sealed the game and those are two really good players,” Vero Beach head coach Lenny Jankowski said. “‘Dre is just, we could talk about him every game, he’s just one of those guys where when the game is at a critical time, he wants it. Time and time and time against all kinds of different coverages and schemes, he comes out on top. EJ threw a great ball and it was an impressive play.”

Vero Beach High School's E.J. White sprints into South Fork defenders in the first quarter as the Vero Beach High School Fighting Indians take on the South Fork Bulldogs on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022, at Billy Livings Field at the Citrus Bow in Vero Beach. Vero Beach won 54-6.

Jacobs earlier on the final drive for Vero caught a screen pass from Jake Whiteley and broke a tackle to gains five yards on third and four inside their own 35-yard line to extend the drive and hauled in a 30-yard catch shortly after.

Harmony took advantage of a miscue on special teams for Vero Beach as a Longhorn punt skipped off a Vero return man and a recovered fumble led to a 17-yard touchdown run by Cooper Richards with 4:51 remaining to make it 17-14.

The Longhorns gave Vero Beach trouble with a unique option offensive scheme that chewed clock up in the first half and didn’t allow the Vero offense to find much rhythm.

White, who was banged up in Vero Beach’s 10-7 overtime over Treasure Coast two weeks ago, made a big play early running 33 yards for a touchdown that put his team on top 7-0 in the second quarter.

Harmony tied the game late in the first half as Jeremy Hilliard plunged into the end zone from a yard out as the two teams were deadlocked 7-7.

Jesse Lewis converted a 27-yard field goal that put Vero Beach ahead 10-7 late in the third quarter.

Vero linebacker Kevin Pollock, who recovered a fumble late in the first half, made another key play to start the fourth quarter blocking a 47-yard field goal attempt by Harmony kicker Alex Tujo, who had hit 10 field goals in the regular season.

Two plays later, senior running back Quincy Rodgers gashed the Harmony defense for a 59-yard run that set up White to score from two yards out to make it 17-7.

In the end, Vero Beach hung tough on a week in which Hurricane Nicole threw a wrench into their plans for preparing for Harmony.

With school cancelled Wednesday and Thursday, Vero Beach had a brief Friday practice to get ready for a Saturday game and now the team will get ready for fourth-seeded Melbourne, who defeated Centennial Saturday afternoon 28-16.

“There’s always things to clean up and get better but it sure feels good to be back it again next Friday,” Jankowski said. “Everything’s off, you’re gone for two days and Harmony was in the same boat too. All that considered, we still were able to do some good things.”

Melbourne 28, Centennial 16

Hunter Turner threw two touchdown passes and Nate Jennings had a critical interception return for a touchdown late in the first half to help the Melbourne knock out Centennial in the regional quarterfinals.

Two Lamar Wilson field goals each from 26 yards out in the first quarter gave the Eagles a 6-0 lead before Turner hit Frankie Santiago on a 17-yard touchdown pass that put the Bulldogs ahead 7-6.

Ricky Cooper ripped off a 56-yard kickoff return immediately after but Centennial stalled on offense leading to another Wilson field goal again from 26 yards out to put the Eagles back ahead 9-6 in the second quarter.

Cooper made another big play picking off a pass by Turner on Melbourne’s next offensive possession but the Bulldogs countered with one big takeaway of their own.

Ricky Cooper of Centennial is surrounded by Melbourne defenders in their first round game of the FHSAA Class 4S football championship Saturday, November 12, 2022. Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY via USA TODAY NETWORK

Melbourne linebacker Woody Sweet leapt in the air batting Centennial quarterback Daniel Riveron’s pass and after a couple of deflections it ended up in Jennings’ hands, who raced 55 yards for a touchdown to put the Bulldogs ahead 14-9.

The Eagles got another takeaway as Nikko Lopez recovered a muffed punt by Melbourne deep in Bulldog territory before halftime but Wilson was injured on the punt and forced Centennial to go for it on a fourth and goal from the 3-yard line.

Melbourne stretched their lead to 21-9 as Turner hit Kevarris Cohen on a 12-yard touchdown pass and the Bulldogs again came up with a stop on a fourth down play inside the 5-yard line on the Eagles’ next drive.

Centennial would find a way to score as DJ Dunbar recovered a fumble off a dropped exchange by Melbourne from the 1-yard line where the senior linebacker scooped the ball up and scored to give his team a shot in the fourth quarter trailing 21-16.

Melbourne pinned the Eagles back deep after a clutch 52-yard punt from Turner and after the Bulldogs forced a three-and-out and got a short field after a Centennial punt from its own end zone put the game away.

Wesley Lambert ran in a 10-yard touchdown to ice the game for Melbourne, who will take on Vero Beach next week in a regional semifinal.


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