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TAMPA - Thanks to one of the county's most undersized workhorses, Jesuit's season will stretch a few extra furlongs.
Three nights after a 247-yard rushing effort against Robinson, Tigers 178-pound tailback Kevin Valenti was darting off-tackle - and off the charts -again. Running for all 121 of his team's yards, Valenti led Jesuit to a 14-3 triumph over Palmetto in the second quarter of Monday night's Class 3A, District 11 tie-breaker at Corral Stadium.
Jesuit (5-4) was among three teams that entered Monday's action tied for the 3A-11 runner-up spot with 1-2 district records. Palmetto defeated Robinson 3-0 in a flag-riddled opening quarter, but had no answer for Valenti in the decisive period. As a result, the Tigers play at Wauchula Hardee (8-1) in the opening round of playoffs a week from Friday.
"We'll keep giving it to (Valenti) until they can stop us," said Tigers coach Joe Ross, whose club was winless in district play only five days ago.
Valenti took charge after Palmetto opened the period with a nine-play, 62-yard drive, capped by Brandon Thompson's 29-yard field goal. On his second run, the 5-foot-10 senior broke free for a 69-yard gain, setting up his 1-yard TD dive over right guard three plays later. Valenti carried five times for 39 yards on Jesuit's next possession, scoring from 3 yards with 1:18 to play.
Robinson and Palmetto played a scoreless opening quarter that featured eight penalties -five whistled against the Knights - before each took a possession at the other's 10-yard line.
Renard Bell intercepted Knights junior Justin Le's tipped pass in the end zone, though Bell appeared to land out of bounds. Four plays later, Thompson booted a 23-yard field goal to send Palmetto into the second period.