Nathaniel Hudson, Jr.’s lone goal since becoming the coach at South Dade this season was to make his players believe they could restore the school’s proud football tradition.
After six weeks, not only is South Dade back among the contenders, it is at the top of its district.
Despite surrendering 21 unanswered points in the middle two quarters, South Dade rallied from a touchdown deficit in the second half to beat Killian 23-21 on Saturday night at Harris Field.
The victory put South Dade (5-1, 2-0) in sole possession of first place in District 16-8A ahead of the previously unbeaten Cougars (4-1, 1-1). The Bucs went 5-5 last season, but went 1-3 in district, slipping to fourth place after back-to-back seasons of advancing to the regional finals.
“We knew going in it was going to be an emotional game,” Hudson said. “The key was perseverance and confidence. We did a great job.”
Willie Cortes’ 1-yard touchdown run with a little more than five minutes left gave South Dade the lead for good. Killian had two chances to answer but fell short on the first drive after a holding penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct foul on the same play put them in a 1st-and-35 situation it could not overcome. Killian committed 11 penalties for 115 yards.
The final drive ended 35 yards short of the end zone when David Felipe’s desperation heave landed incomplete.
Trailing 21-14 midway through the third quarter, Killian appeared to have all of the momentum after Matthew Colominas sacked Bryant Stewart, who was injured on the play and had to leave the game.
But South Dade faked a punt and Devontay Keaton picked up 47 yards and a first down leading to a Julian Garcia 20-yard field goal that cut the deficit to 21-17.
Backup quarterback Darryl Tillmen filled in effectively for the Bucs, driving them toward the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter with a key 36-yard pass to Keaton on third-and-14.
“We’ve been through games like this before and we practice comeback situations, so we’re used to it,” Hudson said.
South Dade took an early 14-0 lead on back-to-back touchdown passes by Stewart. The first was to C.J. Worton for 15 yards and the second went to Terry Edwards for 21 yards.
Killian prevented South Dade from taking a 21-0 lead when Bruce Davis intercepted a Stewart pass at the goal line and alertly tossed the ball back to Jaquan Johnson, who raced 100 yards for a touchdown. Johnson later helped tie the game on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Felipe, who would later give Killian the lead on a 4-yard keeper.
“This is big because we expect to be in this position, but from the time I got here the kids have responded to every single challenge,” Hudson said. “They knew this game was going to be tough because Killian has a great team. But tonight is our night.”
• North Miami 21, Hialeah 2: Saturday’s game between North Miami and Hialeah proved that a team’s record doesn’t always hold weight as host North Miami (2-3, 1-0) captured its first district win of the season
The Pioneers jumped to a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter on two big plays — a 49-yard run by running back Roman Charles and a 60-yard touchdown reception from quarterback James Volcy to Charles.
Pioneers coach Ed Williams said that the coaching staff expects a lot out of Charles every week. Charles finished the game with 139 yards rushing, 68 yards receiving and two touchdowns.