Killian’s football team didn’t change anything on the playoff bracket Wednesday night.
But it did alter the perception of what to expect in the upcoming Class 8A playoffs.
The Cougars sent a clear message they are legit contenders for a state championship by rallying to beat Columbus 21-17 at Southridge Stadium.
Jaquan Johnson reached up and hauled in a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback David Felipe with 24 seconds remaining to give Killian (8-1) the game-winning score over the Explorers (6-4) in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Johnson ended any hopes of a comeback on the ensuing drive by intercepting a desperation pass by Columbus quarterback Tucker Beirne on the final play.
“It’s a big win for us,” Johnson said. “We had to make big plays to win and we did. We’re going to celebrate tonight, but then we have to get back tomorrow and start working to get ready for the playoffs.”
Killian’s defense forced three Columbus turnovers including two timely fumbles that set up its other two touchdowns. Felipe converted both on touchdown runs of 2 and 4 yards as the Cougars erased a 17-7 fourth quarter deficit.
Killian opens the postseason next Friday against Southwest at 7:30 p.m. at Tropical Park. Columbus will play Dr. Krop at Tropical Park at 7 p.m. next Thursday.
Senior Daniel Fernandez has been at the heart of the Columbus cross-country team’s return to prominence this season.
Fernandez secured another big win for himself and his teammates Wednesday afternoon by winning the boys’ individual and team titles of the Region 4-4A meet at Larry and Penny Thompson Park.
Fernandez ran a time of 16:03.72 to edge sophomore rivals Nick Diaz of Sunset (16:11.79) and Kurt Convey of Coral Reef (16:23.90) for the crown.
Columbus, in turn, edged Sunset by 11 points for the team title.
“This was really important for us because we were off stride the past three weeks,” Fernandez said. “We looked back at a lot of stuff we were doing wrong as a team and we came out strong from the first mile today.”
On the girls’ side, Ferguson picked up another win securing the team title by scoring 22 points to finish ahead of Lourdes’ 43. Stephanie De La Guarda won the individual title by running a time of 19:34.46 to finish ahead of teammate Katrina Santiago’s 19:53.34. Santiago had been Ferguson’s big winner of late, but coach Ryan Raposo said she had been battling stomach cramps during the race.
ANDRE C. FERNANDEZ
• Boys’ team state qualifiers: 1. Columbus 33; 2. Sunset 44; 3. Ferguson 88; 4. Coral Reef 113; 5. Varela 136; 6. Coral Park 157. Girls’ team qualifiers: 1. Ferguson 22; 2. Lourdes 43; 3. Coral Reef 80; 4. South Dade 113; 5. Coral Park 166; 6. Coral Gables 173. Boys’ individual qualifiers: 1. Daniel Fernandez (COL) 16:03.72; 2. Nick Diaz (SUN) 16:11.79; 3. Kurt Convey (CR) 16:23.90; 4. Fabian Delgado (KIL) 16:30.07; 5. Ronny Greenup (SUN) 16:34.42; 6. Kenneth Castro (SUN) 16:39.31; 7. Daniel Linares (COL) 16:40.31; 8. Patrick Cabrera (COL) 16:45.75; 9. Angelous Serna (VAR) 16:52.05; 10. Marcos Garcia (COL) 16:55.71; 11. Pedro Hernandez (COL) 16:56.16; 12. Eric Dusseau (PAL) 17:02.68; 13. Giovanni Herrera (FER) 17:04.80; 14. Malik Gunter (SUN) 17:10.65; 15. Santiago Saiki (FER) 17:11.07. Girls’ individual results: 1. Stephanie de la Guarda (FER) 19:34.46; 2. Katrina Santiago (FER) 19:53.34; 3. Molly Price (LOU) 19:57.18; 4. Aylwyn Hernandez (FER) 20:00.24; 5. Lourdes Brea (LOU) 20:07.46; 6. Samara Taylor (CR) 20:09.50; 7. Lauren Gavulic (FER) 20:15.79; 8. Rachel Licea (FER) 20:22.37; 9. Lea Tardanico (VAR) 20:31.64; 10. Kassandra Blandon (MB) 20:51.28; 11. Madison Fernandez (LOU) 20:52.84; 12. Barbra Vilson (SD) 20:57.94; 13. Bianca Barrios (LOU) 20:59.84; 14. Lauren Garcia (LOU) 21:05.71; 15. Lauren Holian (CR) 21:16.12.