FORT PIERCE — Fort Pierce Westwood will retain city bragging rights for at least another year.
Maurice Smith Jr. rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another and Dravon Nonnombre rushed for two scores as the Panthers dominated rival Central 49-0 in Showdown 41 on Wednesday night at Lawnwood Stadium.
“It’s a great feeling. We’ve worked hard in the weight room, in the classroom and we all came together to pull out this big win.”
Westwood (1-0) has won four consecutive games in the series. Central drops to 0-2.
Takeaways from Wednesday’s game
Maurice Smith Jr. is a difference maker. We saw this midway through the 2019 season when Smith took over as the Panthers quarterback and the team immediately transformed from a run-heavy squad to a pass-first offense. All Wednesday’s performance did was serve a reminder that Smith is in the upper echelon of quarterbacks on the Treasure Coast. It certainly helps that Westwood has some of the best skill position players in the area — sophomore receiver Vandrevious Jacobs is a matchup nightmare and Mikel Love showed great speed against Central — but Smith is the guy who brings it all together.
Central’s front seven made several big plays. If the Cobras are looking for a silver lining it might be the defensive front, which did a nice job of keeping the Panthers rushing game in check and sacked Smith multiple times. That includes a strip sack Central recovered in the first quarter. Westwood’s big plays came in the pass game, but the Cobras run defense was solid and certainly an improvement after giving up more than 200 rushing yards against Martin County last week.
Westwood’s defense is as advertised. One of the primary reasons why the Panthers were ranked No. 2 in TCPalm’s preseason rankings is because of the defensive talent. It was on display Wednesday. All-state senior defensive end James Gardner Jr. (No. 9 TCPalm Super 11) had three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Senior tackle David Brown, who was playing in his first varsity game, made multiple plays in the backfield. Junior safety Rod Huntley broke up a would-be Central touchdown by knocking the ball out of the receiver’s hands. Westwood came into the game wanting to stop the run and the Panthers certainly did that, too.
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Central’s special teams are a work in progress. Last week, the Cobras punt return team lost a key fumble against Martin County that helped swing the momentum toward the Tigers. Against Westwood, Central’s special teams fumbled on three consecutive Panthers kicks in the second quarter and lost two of them — both leading to Westwood touchdowns. Westwood also had success in the return game, capped by James Monds III bringing a punt back for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. If the young Cobras squad can limit mistakes on special teams, it could make a big difference.