Killian’s football team made endurance a high priority from the moment it began preparing for the season this past January.
Once again Saturday night, the Cougars wore down an opponent to record their most meaningful victory yet.
Led by its defense, which posted its third shutout of the season, Killian avenged its only defeat this year by blanking South Dade 24-0 in a Region 4-8A semifinal in front of roughly 2,000 fans at Harris Field.
Killian allowed 129 total yards but gave up only 27 yards and two first downs until midway through the fourth quarter.
The Cougars running game, led by Jamaal Burgess’ 111 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries, totaled 247 yards .
“January through June with our offseason conditioning is what it’s all about,” Killian coach Cory Johnson said. “That made men out of us. All those long days of hard work pays off.”
Killian (10-1) advanced to the regional final for the first time since 2008 and will face a team seeking vengeance against it. The Cougars will play Columbus on Friday at 7:30 p.m., likely either at FIU Stadium or Traz Powell Stadium. The site will be determined by Monday.
The Cougars beat Columbus in the regular-season finale for both teams.
“We’re prepared, and we know it’s going to be a tough one, but anybody that wants to win it all has to come through us,” Johnson said.
Killian scored 21 second-half points to pull away from South Dade, which had defeated the Cougars in the regular season to eventually claim the District 16-8A title. South Dade finished 10-2 in its first season under coach Nathaniel Hudson following a 5-5 season in which it missed the playoffs.
“We’re not going to hold our heads down,” Hudson said. “I’m proud of how well these kids played this year, and we have something to build from.”
Other than a methodical 14-play, 57-yard drive aided by three penalties against South Dade that resulted in a 35-yard field goal by Christian Cepeda, Killian didn’t muster too much against the Bucs in the first half.
South Dade had a chance to turn the momentum of the game in the second quarter when Tyree Brady intercepted quarterback David Felipe and returned it to the Killian 10-yard line. But on the ensuing play, Killian cornerback Cortez Benjamin ripped the ball away from a receiver in the end zone for an interception to preserve the 3-0 lead.
Killian finally got its offense going on its first drive of the third quarter on two long runs. Harry Jones ran for 39 yards and Burgess broke a 22-yarder to the South Dade 1. Felipe scored on the next play to give Killian a 10-0 edge.
Two drives later, Burgess crushed any hopes South Dade had when he found an opening down the sideline and raced 78 yards for a touchdown.
“The hard work from this team and staying humble is what I’m most proud of this team,” Johnson said. “There was a lot of talk online all week, but this team did their talking on the field with the pads on.”
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