Dade Christian is the only remaining unbeaten Miami-Dade County football team in the playoffs.
It is ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 2A.
But look past those two distinctions and you will find a team that has labored through a season riddled with injuries and personnel movement.
Through it all the Crusaders have persevered.
“We’re down to about 25 healthy bodies,” Dade Christian coach Mike Sonneborn said. “But every time we’ve been short-handed or had to move players to play different positions, we’ve found a way to win.”
Sonneborn knows his team can truly make this gritty season count if it overcomes its toughest foe yet this Friday when Dade Christian (10-0) plays host to Belle Glade Glades Day (9-2) and running back phenom Kelvin Taylor in the Region 4-2A final at 7:30 p.m.
Taylor, a University of Florida commitment and one of the nation’s best, has run for 2,260 yards and 40 touchdowns this season.
Glades Day is vying for its eighth state title overall and third in the past four seasons.
Dade Christian, which has yet to win a state title, is trying to reach the state semifinals for the first time since 2006 when it was eliminated by Glades Day.
The Crusaders beat the Gators in 2010 in the regular season when Taylor was a sophomore, but Glades Day is 3-0 all-time in playoff meetings.
To slow down Taylor and back up their lofty status, Sonneborn knows his team needs another stellar effort from its reduced but versatile roster.
“Our goal is to try and stop him, but realistically you’re not going to stop a back as talented as he is,” Sonneborn said. “We need to play some ball control on offense and try to limit his touches because they’re not afraid to hand him the ball 35 times a game.
“You worry about Taylor, but you also can’t put 10 guys in the box because they can burn you with some play action. We have to swarm the ball and play our defense.”
Since the start of the season, Dade Christian has overcome four season-ending injuries to key starters — linebacker Sterling Mack, offensive lineman Jonathan Perez, cornerback Jeremy Miller and linebacker Blake Janvion.
But several two-way players have stepped up in key roles.
Quarterback/strong safety Gary Sampson has missed four games with his own injuries, he but has conducted the offense well. Senior fullback Andrew Florvil has scored nine touchdowns but also has filled in as a blocker to bolster the offensive line.
And the anchor of both the offensive and defensive lines has been four-year starter Danny Nunez, a 6-2, 285-pound senior center/defensive tackle. He and senior defensive end Vince Young, tackle Kelvin Acosta and defensive end/tight end Aaron Batten have helped keep the Crusaders on track.
“We’ve had more talented teams in the past here, but this is a group that plays big when it needs to step up,” Sonneborn said. “The amazing thing is in the past few games, we seem to be a second-half team when usually teams in our situation wear down.”