Plantation senior running back Jovante Ham remembers sitting beside team manager Gary Curtis’ bed when Curtis could barely speak.
Curtis, who used a wheelchair, suffered from muscular dystrophy. Though he graduated from Plantation two years ago, Ham said Curtis “stuck around the team because that’s what was really keeping him alive.”
Not only would Curtis travel to wherever the team played, but he also stuck it out when it stormed during games, cheering on the guys in his rain gear.
During their final meeting, Curtis struggled to get out one word: “States.”
“I told him that I had him,” Ham said. “That was the last thing I told him. I told him we were going to win a state championship, and we’re on track to do that.”
Curtis passed away before the season.
Ham and the rest of the Colonels (6-1, 3-0 District 15-7A) look to keep that wish — and promise — with just three regular-season games remaining on the schedule.
Already guaranteed the program’s first postseason berth since 2009, Plantation will visit St. Thomas Aquinas (5-2, 3-0) at 7 p.m. Friday with the district title on the line.
The last time Plantation won a district championship was in 2004. And the last time it beat Aquinas?
“I don’t know, you’d have to look at our archives,” coach Steve Davis said. “It would mean a lot. It’s been a slow growth with getting our program to where we are right now.
“We just want to continue. Our goal was to get to the playoffs and win districts. That’s really in our sights Friday night. We have that opportunity. That was one of our goals heading into the season.”
After dropping its season opener 17-7 to Hallandale, Plantation has won six in a row. In that first game, the offense lost five fumbles. Davis credits line play on both the offensive and defensive sides for the turnaround.
Since then, the Colonels have averaged 49.7 points per game, outscoring opponents 298-94. Junior quarterback Chris Lammons has run an offense that can “spread the wealth,” according to Davis.
Lammons has thrown for 11 touchdowns and 981 yards and rushed for 407 yards and four touchdowns. Ham has amassed 705 yards and 11 touchdowns on 76 carries this season.
“After the Stranahan game and coming into the season, we had high hopes and we let everybody down in the Hallandale game,” Ham said. “Our heads got too big. I think our team does better being the underdog.”
Said Davis: “It was the same team, same system and everything. You can’t turn the ball over.
“ I think it was probably the best thing for us to have a game like that because the next week we had Glades Central, and the guys were really focused and realized and learned from those mistakes. Sometimes you learn more from your losses than your wins.”
Buzz from people at school and in the community surrounds Plantation thanks to its success thus far.
It comes just in time as the program hopes for its biggest win since a 38-7 first-round postseason victory over Deerfield Beach in 2009.
“We’ve had a lot of people believe in Plantation so far this year,” senior linebacker Ray Ciervo said. “We’re just trying to keep it rolling and do what we have to do. A goal was making the postseason in our high school career, and it feels great having that team camaraderie and solidifying our spot in the playoffs. There’s only one thing we want, and that’s a state championship.”