First Baptist grabs playoff berth with win over Palmetto Christian

Frankie Mansfield @mnfrankie fmansfield@moultrienews.com

First Baptist freshman Michel Dukes rushed for 262 yards in a win over Palmetto Christian Friday. FRANKIE MANSFIELD

 It’s the first playoff berth since 2007 for the Hurricanes in 11-man football and first for second-year head coach Johnny Waters.

“This program has turned the corner,” Waters said. “We had 17 kids last year now we’re up to 35. We went from not winning a game last year to the playoffs now. Everybody’s buying in and now they’re believing.”

Waters spent five years as an assistant at Palmetto Christian under Jim Daniel, who now serves as an assistant on the Hurricanes’ staff. Friday was First Baptist’s first time ever defeating Palmetto Christian.

“We spent years building something special over (at Palmetto Christian). Now we’re trying to do the same here,” Waters said. “It feels good to see everyone so enthusiastic about where we’re going.”

Palmetto Christian (1-7, 0-3) pulled within 10 of First Baptist with a 72-yard touchdown pass from Chad Shimakonis to Drew Brown with two seconds left in the third quarter.

First Baptist (4-4, 2-1) regained control in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 straight with timely stops from its defense. Hurricanes freshman running back Michel Dukes reopened a three-possession lead on a 3-yard touchdown run with 8:52 to play. Dukes finished with 262 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

“Michel ran hard all night,” Waters said. “He’s a freshman and he’s phenomenal. He’s our guys and he’s going to be really special.”

The Hurricanes defense forced a turnover on downs on fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line with five minutes remaining. Santonio Washington cashed in for First Baptist on its ensuing drive with a 62-yard touchdown catch to seal the win.

Santanio Washington grabs one of his two touchdowns against Palmetto Christian Friday.

 

Washington finished with 164 yards receiving and two scores. Hurricanes junior quarterback Cameron Berl passed for 327 yards and four touchdowns.

Brown broke a 46-yard touchdown run on the game’s opening possession to give Palmetto Christian an 7-0 lead less than four minutes in. Dukes countered four minutes later with a 71-yard sprint to the end zone.

First Baptist outscored Palmetto Christian 24-7 in the second quarter off three Berl touchdown passes. Berl hooked up with Tony Alvanos twice, the second on a 47-yard hook-and-lateral play to put the Hurricanes up 30-14 with 22 seconds remaining in the half.

“I think our tempo got to them tonight,” Waters said. “We let up too many points but Palmetto Christian did some good things against us. Our guys played well tonight. We’re exited about what the future holds.”

First Baptist still has an opportunity to win Region 2-AA with some help and a win over Northwood Academy in the Hurricanes’ regular-season finale next week. Palmetto Christian looks to rebound at St. Andrews (Savannah, Ga.).

 First Baptist celebrates it's first playoff berth since 2007.

First Baptist celebrates its first playoff berth since 2007.

 

First Baptist celebrates its first playoff berth since 2007.