FORT LAUDERDALE – Devante Peete is poised to have a special season for St. Thomas Aquinas.
The 6-foot-5, 200-pound junior receiver, a transfer from Blanche Ely, made two impressive touchdown catches in St. Thomas’ 21-10 preseason win against Dillard on Thursday night.
On third-and-8 from the 32-yard line in the second quarter, he adjusted to the ball at the goal line and grabbed Wade Freebeck’s pass for a touchdown despite good coverage. Then late in the third quarter, he caught an 11-yard touchdown from backup Jake Rizzo despite a flag for defensive pass interference.
But it was his big block on Freebeck’s 14-yard scramble on the game’s third play from scrimmage that showed why he can truly be a special receiver.
“Devante is a very confident individual, and once he’s involved in our offense and our schemes – we’ve got some packages for him – he knows he can be that dominant wide receiver,” St. Thomas coach Rocco Casullo said. “He’s put on size in the weight room. He reminds me a lot of Plaxico Burress. And he’s a very confident kid, and that showed tonight.”
Peete said the chemistry between him and Freebeck, a transfer from Western, is “great.” Fellow receiver Juwuan Harris also looked good, grabbing three passes for 61 yards.
Some other observations from Thursday night’s game:
--- St. Thomas held out running back Deltron Sands as a precaution because of a minor injury (bruised knee) as well as a couple of starting offensive linemen and a handful of other players. Johnnie Gaines looked good in Sands’ place, carrying six times for 26 yards.
--- It was clear it was the teams’ first game in several months. St. Thomas was penalized 15 times for 165 yards, including several personal fouls, and Dillard 14 times for 76 yards, including numerous false starts. St. Thomas also had four fumbles – one on a snap that sailed over the quarterback’s head – and lost two of them.
--- Casullo’s assessment of the exhibition: “What was good is that everybody we wanted to evaluate, we got to evaluate. …We’re very saturated with juniors on defense, and I thought those guys played well. Their backs were up against the wall a couple of times. We’ll watch the film, but their effort was great.”
--- Freebeck was 9-for-15 passing for 142 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Both teams gave their starting quarterbacks the rest of the night off on the opening series of the second half.
--- Dillard’s Bud Martin was 10-for-20 for 127 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Defensive back Tyson Cisrow picked off a pass in the first quarter. Martin should have had three other passes picked off in the first quarter alone, but the Raiders dropped at least five potential interceptions, a point Casullo yelled in frustration to himself in the third quarter.
--- Dennis Turner, a University of Miami commit, had three catches for 67 yards for Dillard, including a 40-yard reception down the left sideline on the Panthers’ first offensive play.
--- Dillard’s running game was non-existent. Eddie Roberts was the team’s leading rusher with 10 yards on six carries.
--- Joseph Bazlie made a 30-yard field goal to give Dillard its only lead, 3-0, with 7:46 left in the first quarter.
--- St. Thomas defensive linemen Anthony Moten and Nicholas Bosa were dominant, and Dillard safety Randy Ramsey also looked good, registering two sacks with a forced fumble.
--- St. Thomas running back Madre London rushed for 52 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown, on 11 carries.