Scouting Report: Brahmans meet Heritage Palm Bay Panthers tonight

OKEECHOBEE — Heritage has had a iron grip on the district 6A-14 title for the past few seasons and tonight is a must win for them to continue that dominance.

Okeechobee (2-1) also knows that their only hope for playoff is to beat Heritage tonight.

Last week the Brahmans were rained out by lightning against Somerset Academy Canyons of Boynton Beach.   Heritage (3-1) coached by Mark Ainsley lost to 8A school Kissimmee-Osceola, 14-6, at home.

The Panthers have defeated Merritt Island 28-21, Dakota Ridge Colorado 22-18, and Eau Gallie 13-7, this year.

They are led by sophomore quarterback Willie Gaines who has completed 67 percent of his passes for 625 yards and two touchdowns.  He has a quarterback rating of 97.

Gaines also leads the Panthers in rushing with 333 yards, an average of 6.7 yards per rush.  Avery Oates has rushed for 185 yards, 6 yards per carry.  The Panthers have rushed for 796 yards as a team.

Top receivers include Brian Nieves’ 10 receptions for 191 yards and a touchdown, and Trevor Phillip’s five catches for 122 yards and a score.  Top defenders for Heritage include Matt Allaire, 57 tackles with six for losses, Isaiah Gamble with 45 tackles, Rashard Farmer with two interceptions and Jason Miller with three fumble recoveries.

Brahman coach Chris Branham said the team wanted to play last week to get the bitter taste out of their mouths from a loss against Sebastian River.  He said the football program also took a financial hit of $2,200 they spent to pay for some of the travel expenses for Somerset, plus the loss of revenue from the gate. Ironically, 10 minutes after the game was cancelled, the all clear siren went off.

Branham said on paper the game with Heritage is an even match. Last year Okeechobee led Heritage until the final play of the first half when they scored on a long pass play. Heritage went on to win, 42-14. Two years ago Okeechobee lost at home to Heritage, 14-7.

Branham said he thinks besides Sebastian River, there are four teams, Okeechobee, Heritage, Eau Gallie and Jensen Beach, that are very even.

Heritage, he noted, is well coached, and make excellent half time adjustments.

“This is not going to be an easy game,” he added.

Branham said his players know the importance of this game and know the tradition of Heritage and what that program has accomplished.

“They are not as big as usual, but they are physical and they fly around the field,” he noted. “I think my team has tried to grow up a bit from the Sebastian game.”

The Brahmans will emphasize execution tonight, limiting mistakes, and ball control. The defense will have to concentrate and follow the ball as the Panthers like to do misdirection, counter plays, and pull their offensive guards.

“We just need to control the things that we can control.  We just need to finish the game and we still believe in who we are and what we can accomplish,” he added.

Branham expects to play Antawyn Bubba Fludd and Lamar Williams more on defense tonight.

The kickoff tonight is scheduled for 7 p.m.  There is a charge for admission and parking at Brahman Stadium.

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