WATSON -- It was a prime example of one of biggest areas of growth the Live Oak football program has shown under coach Brett Beard.
In the third and final matchup in Wednesday’s 7-on-7 Passing League, not a whole lot had gone the Eagles' way against Madison Prep Academy.
Not only had Live Oak suffered three interceptions on offense against one of the state’s top secondarys, but the defense had also permitted two touchdowns.
Live Oak responded by forcing a pair of three-and-outs over its next possessions, including a pass attempt defensive back Tanner Martin perfectly defended inside the 5-yard line.
Two plays later, the Eagles were in the end zone.
The combination of quarterback Sal Palermo and slot back Rhett Rosevear covered 45 yards on a pair of completions –- the final one of 24 yards to Rosevear on a post route on the game’s final play.
“What I love seeing more than anything is what we’ve kind of overcome at Live Oak,” Beard said. “We’re going to give up the big play, it’s going to happen. But it’s how we rebound and respond to it, it’s like a totally different animal we’re dealing with. The kids have learned to move on from it.”
Live Oak hosted Class 5A Ponchatoula, District 4-5A foe Central and Class 3A Madison Prep as temperatures soared above 90 degrees at Eagles Stadium.
Palermo led Live Oak’s first-team offense on 8 of 9 possessions, completing 27 of 35 passes for 269 yards with 4 TDs against 3 interceptions. He also threw for a pair of scores against a mix of first and second members for Central.
“The kid’s a warrior,” Beard said of Palermo. “We got to show off his skill set with his arm, which is something we don’t get to do a whole lot in the fall. This is big for him to get out and read some defenses, make some throws and show what he can do. I think he’s kind of a sleeping giant at the quarterback position and he wins.”
Rosevear led the Eagles' receivers with 10 catches for 108 yards and a TD. Senior Grant Richardson had 5 catches for 64 yards and junior Darian Ricard added 3 receptions for 38 yards and a score.
“You could see in just one week the chemistry’s already there compared from last week,” Rosevear said. “We had more completions. You could just see we had better chemistry.”
Palermo enjoyed a sizzling start in Live Oak’s opener against Ponchatoula, which has 6-foot-6 junior quarterback T.J. Finley, a recent LSU commitment.
After Finley led the Green Wave to a score on its first drive, Live Oak’s defense forced a turnover on downs with Taylor Martin breaking up an underneath route on second down.
Senior defensive back Eli Johnson continued the Eagles' defensive momentum one series later with an interception in the middle of the field on second down.
“I was pleased with the competition level,” Beard said. “If we’re going to do this, that’s why I like to have those teams come to us, kind of find out where we’re at, where’s our mindset to see how our guys are going to react to some of the big names and big schools that come in. Ultimately that’s who we’ve got to compete against to win a state championship.”
Palermo, who completed 10 of 12 passes for 87 yards against Ponchatoula, threw TD passes of 3 yards to Wesley Daigle and 6 yards to Hagen Long.
Live Oak’s defense twice held Central out of the end zone after the Wildcats reached the 10 and 5 yard-lines. The Eagles offense was also unable to score on a final attempt from the Wildcats’ 2.
Madison Prep scored on its first two series when Live Oak forced a turnover on downs the last two series.
With the clock winding in the final minute, Palermo connected with a sliding Rosevear for a 21-yard completion on first down and the duo worked again on the final play from 24 yards out.
“We showed we could score in just two plays,” Rosevear said. “It shows how explosive the offense is and how quick you can do it. It shows how good you are and how good you can compete.”