Since they last met 364 days ago, Class 3A powers University School and Delray American Heritage have been on a collision course to meet again.
On Friday night, the Suns and the Stallions, before a standing-room-only overflow crowd at Nova High School in Davie, went at it again in a game many deemed a “mini-state championship game,” otherwise known as a Region 4-3A final.
The Suns did not disappoint their fans as they overcame a 17-12 halftime deficit and dominated the second half to come through with a 34-17 victory in the only playoff matchup in the state of undefeated teams.
University (10-0) will travel across state next week to take on Clearwater Central Catholic in a Class 3A state semifinal while Heritage, the defending 3A state champions, finished 11-1.
“Last year was a tough one to take so it feels great to come through with the big win this time around,” said University coach Roger Harriott, who saw his team’s undefeated season a year ago go down with a 31-20 loss to Heritage in Delray.
“A great win for our program and that’s a credit to our assistant coaches and the determination of the kids.”
Sophomore running back Jordan Scarlett also deserves some credit as well, after rushing for 253 yards on 28 carries and scoring three of the Suns’ four touchdowns.
But it was what was said at halftime that really seemed to fire the Suns players up.
“We could hear [the Heritage players] yelling that ‘this is our house’ and we felt that was really disrespectful and [it] really got us fired up,” Scarlett said.
“And we just went out there and took control of things and showed them what was up.”
And they wasted little time doing it.
After the Suns received the second half kickoff, Scarlett tore loose from midfield on their fourth play from scrimmage for a 50-yard touchdown run.
The ensuing two-point conversion made it 20-17 and the Suns were ahead for good.
With Scarlett carrying the load, University drove 71 yards in six plays late in the third quarter as he rushed for 46 yards on four of those plays — the payoff coming on his 10-yard touchdown run with 2:56 left in the third to push the lead to 10.
Linebacker Skai Moore put the finishing touches on a magnificent second half when he picked off Heritage quarterback Marcus Davis and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown with 2:13 left in the game sending the Suns sidelines into a massive celebration.
Heritage stunned University on the very first play of the game when quarterback Marcus Davis threw a harmless swing pass in the flat to Trenard Davis, who broke three tackles and took off down the far sideline for an 85-yard touchdown.
University bounced back quickly when Scarlett scored a 1-yard touchdown and took a 10-7 lead on a Andrew DiRocco 26-yard field goal late in the first quarter.
A big moment in the second quarter came when the Suns were about to get the ball back on a Stallion punt but a roughing the punter penalty kept the drive alive at the Suns’ 36.
University made Heritage pay five plays later when Davis scrambled around the right side on third-and-goal to score from five yards out to make it 14-10.
University’s defense came through all night, holding Heritage running back Greg Bryant to just 42 yards on 12 carries.
But its biggest moment came just before halftime.
Heritage, leading 14-12, had a first-and-goal on the one with 40 seconds left looking to go up by nine, but a stuffed quarterback sneak followed by a fumbled snap pushed the ball back out to the 9 and Heritage had to settle for a 26-yard field goal and five-point lead.
• Mater East 53, Pine Crest 27 – ME: Camacho 10, Richard 23, Marquez 2, Woody 6, Zheng 10. PC: Ruggiero 2, Beltran 7, Martinez 3, Ruiz 2, Toranzo 13. Halftime: ME 28-16 . Rebounds: Camacho 11. Assists: Zheng 9.
Region 4-8A semifinal at Harris: South Dade vs. Killian, 7:30
Westland Hialeah at Coral Gables, 5
Seahorse Open at Coral Springs City gym
Palmetto at Ransom, 1