FORT PIERCE — If there ever was a year to embrace being out of routine, this is it.
So maybe it’s fitting that Showdown 41 — the annual rivalry game between Fort Pierce Central and Fort Pierce Westwood at Lawnwood Stadium — is being played on tonight.
And of course, the circumstances for both teams are less than ideal.
Central (0-1) is on a short week of preparation after playing Martin County last Thursday. Westwood (0-0) had its originally scheduled season opener against St. Lucie West Centennial postponed after both teams had players quarantined because of the COVID-19 and didn’t return to practice until late last week.
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“We just have to adjust,” Westwood defensive end James Gardner Jr. said. “Practice on the weekend, practice harder and keep our focus. The fact that this is Central means a lot. This is Showdown. It’s a legacy. You’re building a legacy to get your name on the trophy. My dad went here, from him playing here and everyone else, you want to put your name out as someone who did well at Showdown.”
Westwood has won the past three games in the series — including a 21-2 win in 2019. That game was a hard-fought defensive battle with only one offensive touchdown being scored and Westwood’s defense forcing five turnovers.
“The mindset going into this game is. ‘Do your job,’” Westwood coach Jeff George Jr. said. “We have to line up and play ball. We haven’t hit anybody else in a long time and they’re ready because of that. It’s even bigger because it’s Central. They’re excited to play. They’re ready for another challenge.”
Central, which has one of the youngest rosters on the Treasure Coast, scored on its opening drive against Martin County, but lost 41-7.
More: High school football: Takeaways from Martin County’s season opening win against Central
Cobras coach Jeff Cameron said the team will be looking to build on the positives from last week’s game.
“I’m looking to see more of that first-half team from last week,” Cameron said. “I’m looking forward to seeing our kids sustain the same first-half effort. Youth caught up to us a little bit the other night but getting those live-game reps was huge. It was beyond valuable.
“This is a Showdown. This is a rivalry game and the kids have to get up for it.”
Week 2 schedule
Fort Pierce Central vs. Fort Pierce Westwood, 6 p.m.
Jensen Beach at Sebastian River, 6 p.m.
South Fork at Treasure Coast, 6 p.m.
Okeechobee at John Carroll Catholic, 7 p.m.
Port St. Lucie at Vero Beach, 7 p.m.
By the numbers
1: Penalties called against South Fork in the Bulldogs’ 29-22 win against Sebastian River. South Fork’s lone penalty came on special teams.
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6: Team-high catches for John Carroll Catholic receiver Braden Calise against Port St. Lucie. Calise, a Louisville baseball commit, was playing his first varsity football game.
2015: The last time Central had a 100-yard receiver before Lincoln Landy topped the 100-yard mark against Martin County last week. Jacob Harrison and Antonio Hadden each had more than 100 receiving yards against Bayside in the 2015 season finale.
Matchups to watch
Central OL Gabe Jacas vs. Westwood DE James Gardner Jr.
Jacas, a junior tackle, had an outstanding start against Martin County last week with six pancake blocks on the Cobras’ opening drive. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder finished the game with 11 pancake blocks. Gardner (No. 9 on the TCPalm Super 11) is looking to build off his breakout 2019 season when he was a second-team all-state selection.
More: TCPalm Super 11: No. 9 Fort Pierce Westwood DE/OLB James Gardner Jr.
Sebastian River WR Terell Hodges vs. Jensen Beach CB Da’Quan Gonzales
Hodges had a breakout game against South Fork last week, catching five passes for 146 yards and a score. He turned a short pass into an 80-yard score on the first play of the game – something that certainly will have caught Jensen Beach’s attention. Gonzales (No. 2 TCPalm Super 11) did not play last week and likely will be a game-time decision Thursday, but he’ll cover Hodges if he’s on the field.
Treasure Coast G Billy West vs. South Fork DL Corey McIntyre
The Titans racked up 57 points against South Fork in 2019, with most of the damage done on the ground. West is one of three returning linemen for the Titans, which rushed for six touchdowns against Jensen Beach last week. McIntyre, a promising 6-foot-3, 270-pound sophomore, will be counted on to help occupy linemen and allow South Fork’s linebackers to run free.
Port St. Lucie RB Saleem Felder vs. Vero Beach ILB Davon Hicks
The Jaguars will be looking to keep Vero Beach’s offense off the field, which means establishing a consistent run game. Felder averaged more than 100 yards per game as a freshman in 2019. Hicks (No. 5 TCPalm Super 11, USF commit) had 86 tackles and nine tackles for loss in 2019 and was a Class 8A all-state second-team selection.
More: TCPalm Super 11: Linebacker Davon Hicks out to cement his legacy at Vero Beach
“I don’t know. I’ll probably decide around 6:59. I think even in COVID times we can only run one guy out there, but I really don’t know who it’s going to be.” – Vero Beach coach Lenny Jankowski when asked who the Fighting Indians starting quarterback will be Friday. Jankowski said Jackson Nairn, Trevor O’Brien and Nehemiah Cross all could get snaps under center.