COCOA -- Before they took the field Friday night, Booker T. Washington coach Ice Harris made his players stand up in front of one another, look each other in the eye and make a promise.
“We told each other that we love each other, that we’re here for each other and that means we put everything on the line, every play with maximum effort,” Harris said. “No letdowns.”
The top-ranked Tornadoes kept their word, punching a return trip to the Class 4A state championship game in Orlando and a rematch with Jacksonville Bolles following a 41-13 blowout at Cocoa on Friday night.
Quarterback Treon Harris, who orchestrated a thrilling 20-14 overtime win over the Tigers in the state semifinals back home in Miami a year ago, led the Tornadoes to touchdowns on four consecutive drives to open the game as Booker T. (12-1) rolled up 333 yards and produced 20 first downs in building a 34-13 halftime lead.
“Last year was a close game,” said Harris, who ran for 135 yards and a touchdown and completed 12 of 19 attempts for 149 yards and three touchdowns. “In my mind we had to score every drive and put them away quick. It was score, score, score all week in practice.”
The Tornadoes, who came in averaging 47.6 points and 411 yards a game, fell behind 7-6 when Cocoa’s Antwan Lee scored on a 12-yard touchdown run with 7:30 remaining in the opening quarter.
But after Harris drove the Tornadoes right back down the field and capped an 11-play, 66-yard scoring drive with a one-yard sneak into the end zone to make it 12-7, Booker T.’s defense figured out Cocoa’s single wing offense and began shutting it down.
Back-to-back three-and-outs by Cocoa were followed by a 43-yard Harris to Deltron Hopkins touchdown pass on 4th and 1 and then a 6-yard Harris to Nicholas Norris score. Even after Cocoa took advantage of a bad punt and great field position and scored on a 22-yard TD run by Lee with 53 seconds left to go in the half, Booker T. had an answer.
Harris led the Tornadoes right back down the field on a pair of runs that netted 37 yards before finding Karim Bryant in the back of the end zone on a 9-yard touchdown pass. The drive took all of 37 seconds.
Booker T.’s defense produced four interceptions in the second half, but penalties wiped away two of them including one that was returned for a touchdown. Nigel Patten and Terrence Wells-McWhorter had the one’s that counted. Cocoa (10-3) finished just 2 of 6 passing for 24 yards and ran for 155 yards on 48 attempts. They had just 75 yards rushing after the opening drive.
“As soon as we figured out what they were doing with the misdirections and traps, it was just about playing assignment football,” said star linebacker Matthew Thomas, who produced the last of Booker T.’s four sacks with a vicious hit on Cocoa quarterback Jaelon Knowles with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. “Now, we’re right back where we were last year.”
The Tornadoes had a 13-point lead heading into the fourth quarter last season of the 4A title game against Bolles and collapsed.
Treon Harris said that won’t happen again when Booker T. takes on the Bulldogs next Saturday night.
“It’s redemption time,” he said. “We owe them.”
• Coral Reef 46, South Ridge 33 — CR (7-1): R. Alespeiti 11, J. Hollin 9, A. Arabitg 9, K. Toussant 8, S. Schonenberg 4, J. Esdaile 3, A. Alespeiti 2. SR: Williams 11, Kirkland 9, Horn 6, McNauf 4, Wilson 2, Herbert. Rebounds: Hollin 12. Steals: Alespeiti 5.