Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Prep football: Palmetto looking to make a statement

(photo by John Lembo)

Circumstances may have forced Palmetto to change the day of its Kickoff Classic.
To the delight of coach Dave Marino, pictured above addressing his team following Tuesday's practice, the threat of Hurricane Irene did nothing to change the Tigers' opponent.

Rather than play Friday, as originally intended, Palmetto hosts Venice in a Kickoff Classic 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Harllee Stadium. That's fine with Marino, who said there was a purpose in scheduling the Indians.

"That's all we've been preaching to the kids - we're transitioning to a big school," said Marino, a second-year head coach who guided the Tigers into the playoffs last fall. "Population wise, we're a big school. But mentally, psychologically, as a football program, we're not. We're not there yet. We've made strides, to go from 5-5 to 6-4 is progress. We're just looking to improve upon that and move in that direction."

Palmetto successfully appealed a move to Class 5A-District 10 after it was initially placed in a Class 6A district with Lakewood Ranch and a number of Polk County schools. Yet the Tigers are still smaller than Venice, a Class 7A school fresh off making four straight trips to the Class 5A playoffs.

The Indians have become one of the more solid programs in Manatee and Sarasota counties, which is why Marino put them on Palmetto's schedule. It's also why you'll find the likes of Riverview, Sarasota and Manatee among the Tigers' list of opponents as well, Marino said.

"There's no bigger schools in this area that we're not playing," Marino said. "We tried, and that was the best we can do, and it worked out pretty darn good. We're getting a lot of big schools - bigger than we are."

So while Wednesday's Classic may not mean anything in the standings, it will mean plenty to a Palmetto team looking to vault the school back into the area's upper echelon.

"I think it means a lot," said senior quarterback Trenton Miller, "because it's going to propel us into the season. We've got to go out and win."

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