A Second half surge lifts Panthers Football past Centennial!
Senior captain Japerri Powell ran a career high 31 times, amassing 193 all-purpose yards, and scored four touchdowns to carry DP Football to a 34-28 overtime victory over visiting Centennial in the Regional Quarterfinal Friday night. The defending State Champions overcame a myriad of special teams nightmares, seven in total, and regrouped at halftime, switching from a spread formation to the wildcat with Powell at the helm, to erase an 11-point halftime deficit and earned their 11th consecutive first round playoff victory.
On the game’s opening drive, DP looked unstoppable, driving 86 yards in 14 plays to open the scoring. Quarterback Brenden Cyr connected with Jacquez Jones for ten yards and Trey Schyck for a seven-yard first down at the Centennial 43. Nivon Holland took the handoff on the next snap and slipped into the secondary for an 11-yard gain, but an incomplete pass and a rush for no gain threatened to derail the drive. But on third and ten from the Eagles’ 32, Cyr fired a laser pass between two defenders to Ledger Hatch and the big sophomore surged ahead for a 16-yard gain and a first down at the Centennial 16. Japerri Powell then broke off a 13-yard gain for a first and goal and two plays later, dove into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, an errant snap on the extra point attempt foreshadowed a difficult night ahead for the special teams unit but the Panthers drew first blood and took a 6-0 lead with 4:36 left in the opening quarter.
For the remainder of the half, unfortunately, whatever could go wrong for Panthers did go wrong. On Centennial’s ensuing possession, the Eagles drove 75 yards in 13 plays covering over four minutes to take a 7-6 lead with 11:57 left in the half. Both teams exchanged punts midway through the period but at the 7:06 mark, Centennial took over possession at the DP 49 and drove down to the Panthers’ 13, but after consecutive incomplete passes, had to settle for a 27-yard field goal to take a 10-6 lead. Nivon Holland gave DP a boost with a 28-yard kickoff return to set them up at their own 35 but the offense couldn’t get into a rhythm and was forced into a three-and-out. Riley Stephens was in position to punt it away but another errant snap sailed over Stephens’ head and he was forced to jump on the football back at the DP 13 which gave Centennial a golden scoring opportunity with 3:13 left in the half. Three plays later, the Eagles connected on a 12-yard scoring pass and pushed their lead to 17-6. The misery wasn’t finished for DP, though. After driving to midfield on their next possession, the Panthers coughed up the football at the Centennial 48 and the Eagles were in business to put the game away in the first half. An 11-yard pass play and a pair of 11-yard runs for first downs saw Centennial with a first and goal at the DP ten. After a seven-yard run down to the three yard line, the Eagles misfired on two passes and brought out the field goal unit but special teams misfortune infected them as well. The holder was not ready for the snap, which zipped past both him and the kicker, so what should have been a chip shot 20-yard field goal resulted in no points for Centennial and a dramatic shift in momentum for the Panthers heading into the locker room.
Dr. Phillips came out in the third quarter a different team. They were far more enthusiastic, emotional and focused and their first drive was evidential. Nivon Holland delivered another strong kickoff return of 39 yards to put the Panthers in excellent field position at their own 40 as Japerri Powell took over the offensive reins and ,to a man, he was unstoppable. On the first snap of the drive, Powell broke free for an 11-yard gain and carried five consecutive times for 41 yards to give the Panthers a first down at the Centennial 19. Brandon Fields spelled Powell in the backfield for one play and the junior knifed through the Centennial defense for a huge 18-yard gain down to the one before Powell drove it home from a yard out to pull the Panthers to within five points, 17-12, at the 9:03 mark of the third quarter. With the offense resurgent, the DP defense caught fire as well. Centennial’s ensuing drive started at their own 35 and faced a makeable third and one on their third play but junior linebacker Stephen Dix drilled the Eagles’ running back two yards deep in the backfield to force a punt. Once again, DP put the ball in the hands of Japerri Powell and he delivered handsomely, carrying eight of nine plays in the drive for 38 yards, but the most critical play was made by Brenden Cyr. Facing third and ten from the DP 33, Cyr came back onto the field and delivered a bullet to Devon Buckhanon for a 19-yard gain and simultaneously absorbed a late hit from Centennial that resulted in a 15-yard penalty tacked on to the end of the play. Six plays later, all runs by Japerri Powell, the senior skated into the end zone from seven yards out to give the Panthers an 18-17 lead with 2:50 to go in the third. As much as the offense was firing on all cylinders, so too was the DP defense. Centennial started their next drive at their own 39 and after a six-yard run, faced second and four at the 45 but a screen pass to the far side of the field was met by Jaquarri Powell, who put his helmet into the receiver’s chest and drove him into the dirt for a four-yard loss. With the Eagles forced into another passing situation on third and eight, junior linebacker Cameron Williams intercepted the pass and took it to the house from 47 yards out to push the Panthers’ lead to 25-17. From a disastrous second quarter to a dominating third, everything was going DP’s way. But the tide shifted again.
Because DP was assessed a 15-yard celebration penalty after the pick six and a five-yard offsides penalty on the kickoff, Centennial wound up taking over possession at the Dr. Phillips 45 after a 20-yard kickoff return, putting the defense in a precarious position. Centennial went to the air on four straight plays, moving the ball down to the DP 15, but on third and goal from the six, it was Jaquarri Powell who came up big again with a thundering hit on the running back in the backfield for a one-yard loss. Centennial settled for a 23-yard field goal to cut the DP lead to 25-20 and for all intents and purposes, that was a win for the Panther defense. With a five-point lead and the ball with 11:12 left in the fourth quarter the Panthers went quietly in their next offensive series but their special teams drama reared its head again as Centennial blocked the punt and took over at the DP 25. Six plays later, the Eagles would run it in for a two-yard touchdown and convert a two-point pass attempt to retake the lead, 28-25, with 6:50 left in regulation. DP would have plenty of time to regroup but they needed the ball back…but that wouldn’t happen because a miscommunication between the two DP kick returners resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Centennial at the Panthers’ 37 yard line. Once again, the Panther defense had to come up with a big stop. After a 13-yard run gave Centennial a first down at the DP 22, the Eagles misfired on three straight passes and incurred a five-yard penalty and opted to try a 44-yard field goal attempt. That move backfired as the kick sailed wide left and gave the Panthers new life with 5:14 left at their own 20, setting up arguably the most dramatic drive of the season.
Japerri Powell, who also racked up ten tackles at linebacker, led the offense back onto the field and carried three straight times for 17 yards. After a five-yard encroachment penalty on Centennial resulted in a first down, Brenden Cyr carried for six yards and Brandon Fields another three to set up third and one at the the 49. Japerri Powell was then stopped for no gain for the first time all night so the Panthers were looking at fourth and one…until consecutive five yard penalties backed them into a fourth and 11 hole. After rising to the occasion back in the third quarter, Brenden Cyr came on again and hit Jacquez Jones for a seven-yard gain but Centennial was flagged for a five-yard facemask penalty which resulted in a DP first down at the Centennial 47. A holding call brought the Panthers back 13 yards on their next play and after an incomplete pass, DP was looking at second and 23 from their own 40 yard line with just over two minutes remaining. With the play called in and Cyr in at quarterback for an obvious passing play, freshman quarterback Joe Joe Patti quietly slipped into the game, lining up in the slot position. Cyr took the snap and threw behind the line of scrimmage to Patti who stepped back two yards. Downfield, the Centennial cornerback came forward to make a play on Patti but in the process allowed Devon Buckhanon to break free down the home sideline. Patti waited for the corner to bite on the play, picked up outstanding block from Trey Schyck, and launched a deep ball to a wide open Buckhanon for a 50-yard gain down to the Centennial ten. Three plays later, junior kicker Riley Stephens trotted onto the field for the biggest kick of his career…which would result in either extending DP’s playoff dream or ending the careers of 15 seniors. Like a seasoned veteran on the practice field, Stephens knocked the 25-yard attempt right down the middle to tie the game at 28-28 to force overtime.
From the DP ten yard line, Centennial opened up the overtime period on offense and completed a short pass for a gain of four. On second and goal from the six, linebacker Stephen Dix chased down Centennial’s quarterback for a sack and a 13-yard loss back to the 19. After a five-yard penalty pushed them back even further, facing third and goal at the 24, Centennial looked down the middle of the field where they’d had plenty of success throughout the game. But as he’d done all night, Jaquarri Powell tore around the outside of the offensive tackle and hammered the quarterback as he was throwing and sophomore linebacker Alberto Guzman, who saw substantial action all game to give Japerri Powell some recovery time, made the biggest play of his young career with a soul-crushing interception that would have been a touchdown return if it was not overtime. DP then took over possession needing only a field goal to win but it never came down to that because Japerri Powell took the snap, faked a run inside, and cut back outside. Trey Schyck came up with another big block, taking out the cornerback, and Jaquarri Powell blew out the linebacker allowing his brother to skate untouched into the end zone for a ten yard game-winning touchdown.
Defensively, the Panthers were led by Jaquarri Powell with 14 tackles, Stephen Dix with 13 tackles and a sack, Cam Williams with 11 tackles and a pick six, Japerri Powell with ten tackles and a forced fumble, and Frank Maciejczyk with nine tackles, including two for loss. Dr. Phillips will now travel south to take on top-seeded Vero Beach (11-0) in the Regional Semifinal next Friday night at 7:30.
|Joe Joe Patti||1||1||50||0||0||100%|
|Rushing Yards||45-201 (4.5)||26-80 (3.1)|
|Passing/Comp/Att/Yards||10-18-128 (55.6%)||24-46-93 (52.2%)|
|Third Down Conv %||5-11 (45.5%)||6-16 (37.5%)|
|Fourth Down Conv %||1-1 (100%)||1-1 (100%)|
|Avg. Field Position||DP 25||C 47|
John Magrino, M.Ed
Assistant Athletic Director
Dr. Phillips High School