Dillard’s Dre’Sean Nelson wanted a taste of the playoffs, and that’s what he got. Nelson willed the Panthers to their first playoff berth since 2008 as they earned the District 15-5A runner-up spot behind American Heritage by beating Hallandale 6-0 in the first quarter and then beating Cardinal Gibbons 6-0 in the second quarter of a three-way tiebreaker.
Dillard will play defending state champion Miami Norland in the regional quarterfinals in two weeks after finishing its season against rival Ely in the Soul Bowl this weekend.
“Our team just came out. We believed. It was do or die,” Nelson said. “After that embarrassment [a 56-0 loss to American Heritage]. we just looked at each other and said, ‘This is it.’
“We came together. This is my first time [making the playoffs], and it feels good.”
The Panthers struck like lightning as Nelson returned the opening kickoff against Hallandale 98 yards for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead.
The Chargers then drove 18 plays down to the Dillard 4 but failed to punch it in on four tries to turn it over on downs with 2:31 to play.
The Chargers thought they had forced a game-changing fumble in the final minute when it appeared Dillard’s Lee Martin fumbled following a 13-yard run that was subsequently returned for a touchdown by Aaron Plantt, but the back judge ruled Martin down even though the side judge threw his beanbag signaling a fumble. Martin was eventually ruled down, setting off the Hallandale coaching staff as the Panthers were able to run the final 52 seconds off the clock.
The Panthers then marched 80 yards in nine plays against Cardinal Gibbons to start the second quarter to give Dillard a 6-0 lead.
Nelson caught a short pass on third-and-9 from the Dillard 21-yard line, broke a couple of tackles, cut back across the field for a 61-yard reception that set up his 2-yard touchdown run five plays later with 6:52 to play.
The Chiefs seemed to be out of it until Martin made a huge mistake, throwing an interception to Demetrious Amerson . The Chiefs took over at the Dillard 43 and marched to the Dillard 7, but failed to score on fourth down, and Dillard began its unexpected celebration.
• Blanche Ely 3, Dillard 0: John Belfort goal, assist. Kivens Joseph goal, assist. Akim Lyns goal. Jadel Toussaint assist. Nithson Blaise shutout. ELY 1-0.
• Monarch 1, West Broward 0: Gabe Menescal goal. Gian Scalise assist. Rafael De Jesus shutout. MON 1-0.
• Cypress Bay 6, Douglas 0: Juan Todeschini 2 goals, assist. Franco Nassacessi goal, assist. Nicolas Guevara goal. CB 1-0.
• Taravella 5, Northeast 0: Darwin Espinal 3 goals, 2 assists. Esteban Ochoa goal, assist. Santiago Perez goal, assist. Trevor Newman shutout. TAR 1-0.
• Sagemont 7, Sheridan Hills 0: Jesus Ablan 2 goals. Omar Elmasry 2 goals. Reinaldo Marquez shutout. SAGE 1-0.
• Pine Crest 3, Pompano Beach 1: Jonathon Bell 2 goals. Mark Simpson goal. Alex Britton assist. PC 1-0.
• Monarch 3, Flanagan 0: Robyn Whitaker goal, assist. Irma Casas goal, assist. Haley Schulte goal. Kacey Cotter shutout. MON 2-0-1.
• Pembroke Pines Charter 4, Everglades 0: Mya Goodman goal, 2 assists. Kayla Faulkner goal, 2 assists. PPC 4-0.