Plantation American Heritage’s depth as a team helped it survive the loss of star running back Sony Michel last season.
This year, Michel and that group is a year smarter, faster and stronger.
And together the Patriots are hoping for a historic season if they can keep putting together performances like the one they delivered Friday night in a 44-3 rout of Hallandale on the Chargers home field.
“It’s huge when you come into hostile territory and you can get out on them quickly, get in the driver’s seat and force them to play catch up,” American Heritage coach Jeff Dellenbach said. “We have some special guys on this team.”
Junior wide receiver/defensive back Isaiah McKenzie, one of the Patriots’ most versatile players, showed off his talents on offense and defense as he helped American Heritage (4-1, 1-0 District 15-5A) win its district opener after playing its first four games against out-of-county opponents.
McKenzie (5-9, 180 pounds) finished with two interceptions including one he returned 47 yards for a touchdown as the Patriots pulled away from Hallandale (2-3, 0-2) with 20 points in the third quarter.
“Any time Isaiah touches the ball he can take it to the house,” Dellenbach said. “It’s fun to watch him play. He’s one of those guys you pull for because when scouts look at him they think he’s small. He keeps showing up and making plays.”
McKenzie also caught two passes from quarterback Tyler Cogswell — both for touchdowns. The first one came on the game’s second play when American Heritage went no-huddle and McKenzie outraced the Chargers secondary 75 yards to the end zone. McKenzie later caught an 18-yard touchdown pass.
“The no-huddle offense is something we’ve been practicing this week,” McKenzie said. “On that play, we knew what we had and we made it work.”
McKenzie nearly had another interception return for a score on the final play of the half, but he was tripped up on the return while trying to cut back toward the center of the field.
Michel ran for 116 yards on 18 carries and scored one touchdown, while backfield mate Walter Lee Tucker III finished with 62 yards on six carries and a touchdown.
Heritage’s special teams also had a solid game. Tarvarus McFadden made the huge play when he blocked a punt, recovered it and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown. Kicker Scott Wade connected on a 33-yard field goal early and made 5 of 6 extra points.
“Last year, it was hard losing Sony,” McKenzie said. “But this year, our players are much stronger and faster and we’re all stepping up as a team.”