PALM BEACH GARDENS — Atlantic senior Jayden Parrish recalled the last two years in the season opener when the Eagles had let both games slip away late against Palm Beach Gardens.
He was determined to cash in on a final chance against the Gators. Parrish rushed for three scores, including the go-ahead 23-yard touchdown with 8 seconds left to lift the visiting Eagles to a 21-14 victory in dramatic fashion on Friday night.
Parrish, a Florida State commit and Sun Sentinel Super 11 selection, raced up the middle of the field for the go-ahead score.
“I know nobody can tackle me one-on-one,” he said. “I knew I had to put my team on my back so that’s what I did.”
Parrish has been an impact player on defense at linebacker, which is his primary position and where schools are recruiting him to play. He displayed his ability as a power running back at the goal line in short-yard situations behind starting running back Da’Marion Alberic. He had a pair of 2-yard scores in the first half. He had another 89-yard touchdown run negated due to a holding penalty in the third quarter.
“I just told coach I’m here wherever they need me,” he said. “They can use me whenever. I just got a passion for the game. I love the game. I hate losing. They took it from us two years in a row. I was just saying in my head that I can’t let them take it from us again.”
Palm Beach Gardens defeated Atlantic in the previous two season-opening meetings with a 20-17 victory in 2021 and a 39-38 overtime win last year.
“I am proud of them,” Atlantic coach Jamelle Murray said. “Whatever you do, just don’t lay down. These kids competed all night. We have spoken about it all fall camp. We have to finish. We have been in this situation two years already. We came out on the right end tonight.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Atlantic jumped out to a 14-0 advantage.
The Eagles defense capitalized after creating a turnover with a fumble recovery on defense. The Gators were backed up deep in their own territory as senior quarterback Miche Estime took off and lost the ball at the 8-yard line.
On third-and-goal, Parrish powered up the middle for a 2-yard score with with 5:52 left in the second quarter.
The Gators failed to convert on an incomplete pass on fourth down at their own 48 on the next possession.
Parrish powered his way up the middle for a 2-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 14-0 with 2:08 left in the first half.
Palm Beach Gardens senior Keyon Stephens took over at quarterback midway through the second quarter. Stephens connected with senior Michael Wright on a deep pass down the right sideline for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 14-7 with 1:05 left in the first half.
The Gators rallied back late in the fourth quarter.
Stephens took a direct snap and bounced out to the right for a 12-yard touchdown run to tie the game with 3:08 left.
Atlantic senior Jadarious Patterson had a 99-yard return for a score called back after a block-in-the-back penalty on the ensuing kickoff.
After the Palm Beach Gardens defense forced a punt, the Eagles defense stepped up and made a game-changing play on the next possession.
Patterson recorded an interception at the Eagles’ 39-yard line on a diving effort to give their offense another opportunity with 44 seconds left.
Atlantic junior quarterback Lincoln Graf marched the Eagles downfield with multiple completions toward the sideline.
“Lincoln is a competitor,” Murray said. “He shows it every day and he takes a lot of pride in his game and he takes pride in being a leader for these guys. He lives for these moments and it showed tonight.”
The Eagles were at the Gators’ 23 with 15 seconds left when Parrish entered the game in the backfield. He took a handoff and delivered the go-ahead touchdown.
“Jayden keeps showing he has more,” Murray said. “He just shows you the ceiling keeps getting higher and he performs in that moment.”