A word that epitomized Saturday for Miramar running back Eric Pittman as the junior rushed for a game-high 127 yards and two crucial touchdowns as the Patriots clinched the District 12-8A runner-up spot with a 35-16 win over host Flanagan.
It was a “win-and-in” situation, but it was Miramar (6-4, 4-1), which ends the regular season on a three-game winning streak after alternating outcomes through the first seven weeks of the season, who came up with the biggest plays for the victory.
Cypress Bay (7-2, 5-0) had already clinched the district title coming into Week 10 and both the Lightning and Patriots will await the outcome of Monday’s district 11-8A playoff to determine who their first round postseason opponents will be.
Pittman, who faced an unfortunate turn of events during Miramar’s week five tilt against Cypress Bay, stepped up every time Flanagan (6-3, 3-2) cut into the Patriots’ lead — something the Falcons did twice in the second half; coming within five points each time.
Pittman’s 40-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter, which extended Miramar’s lead to 21-9, then a 59-yard scamper with 3:35 left to play in the fourth gave the Patriots a 28-16 lead and delivered the game-sealing blow.
After the game Pittman tried to deflect the attention of his performance, giving credit to the team.
“What we did tonight was not just about me,” Pittman said. “The whole team stepped up. Our backs were against the wall and we knew we had to do something tonight or we wouldn’t make into the playoffs. It does feel good to play like this in a big game though.”
Cam Rigby also took it upon himself to do something for the Patriots — finishing with 102 yards and two first half touchdowns on 14 carries.
Receiver Tyler Williams caught a 44-yard touchdown pass from Gerald Hawkins with 2:04 left in the fourth to give Miramar its final lead.
After Miramar, which committed 20 penalties for the second straight game, jumped out to a 14-2 lead by halftime, the Falcons defense opened the third quarter by forcing two straight three and outs, which allowed to their pass-heavy offense to build a drive that was capped off with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Stanley to Keavon Mitchell midway through the third.
Stanley, a sophomore, completed 37 of his career-high 65 passes for 342 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Mitchell was Stanley’s top target with 12 catches for 127 yards and Dylan Malson, who’s 11-yard touchdown grab brought Flanagan within five points with just over five minutes to play in the game, finished with six receptions and Emonee Spence had nine catches.
Patriots coach Damon Cogdell also gave his defense, which held Flanagan to negative (-28) rushing yards and racked up four sacks, credit for its performance in the playoff-clinching win.
“I don’t think people give this defense the respect that it deserves,” Cogdell said. “We’ve been the underdog role a lot over the years and we thrive in it. This defense has stood up for us and I think the group is really coming together as a family right now. All we have to is get in and we know what to do after that.”
• American Heritage 56, Dillard 0: Once again, American Heritage dominated a district opponent. This time it was a rout of Dillard, ruining the Panthers’ homecoming en route to the District 15-5A championship. The Patriots outscored their district opponents this season 228-21.