High school football | state playoffs

Generals on cusp of making history

 

Jackson is the oldest public high school in Miami-Dade to never have played for a state championship in football, but a win Friday night over Immokalee would change that.

a1fernandez@MiamiHerald.com

From the sports front

The Jackson football team knows it can’t shut out the growing buzz around its school and community. But the Generals aren’t afraid to talk about how close they are to making history.

“You have no choice but to talk about it a little because you know a lot of people are pulling for you to do this,” junior quarterback Quinton Flowers said. “Jackson has been close to making it to state in the past, but it seems like something always goes wrong. We feel like it would be great for this team to be the one to finally get it done and we’re going to give it our all.”

Jackson is the oldest public school in Miami-Dade County to never have played for a state football championship.

The drought could end this Friday if Flowers and his teammates can deliver one more stellar performance similar to the ones that have made them one of the biggest stories of the postseason.

Jackson (8-4), a school that traces its roots as far back as 1898 when it began as a grade school, will play in its first state semifinal game since 2000 when it faces Immokalee at 7:30 p.m. at Traz Powell Stadium for a chance to reach the Class 5A state championship game next week in Orlando.

Miami High (1965 - last state title), Edison (1970 - last state title) and Miami Beach (1974 - lone state appearance) are among Dade’s oldest high schools. But each has made at least one trip to the state finals. The Generals have come painfully close twice in recent memory.

There was 1998 and Soul Bowl II when more than 47,000 fans watched Jackson blow a 14-2 lead in the closing moments and lose a heartbreaker to Northwestern in the Orange Bowl in 1998.

And then there was 2000, when a team led by eventual star NFL defensive end Elvis Dumervil and ranked as Dade’s top-ranked large school suffered a frustrating 6-0 defeat to Fort Lauderdale Dillard at Traz Powell.

“People are wishing us well, but they’re not really talking to us a lot about it, but we know this is our first chance to make a run for it,” Flowers said. “We know the history. We love our school and our team and we want to make a name for ourselves.”

Jackson’s playoff surge has rallied support from some of its most famous alumni.

Jackson coach Antonio “DeLa” Brown said Dumervil — now with the Denver Broncos — donated money for uniforms and gear for the team earlier this season. Dumervil is among those that have called to congratulate the current Generals in recent weeks.

Flowers is earning a name among the school’s greats such as Dumervil with each stellar playoff performance. He has thrown for 530 yards and four touchdowns and run for 186 yards and two more to lead Jackson to victories over Plantation American Heritage, Norland and Belle Glade Glades Central.

But the Generals know it is more important than ever to maintain focus, considering the team’s history of close calls despite producing many talented players.

“You can’t hide from the fact that we’re the talk of the town right now,” Brown said. “But you can go from the outhouse to the penthouse or back real quick. We believed from the beginning we could achieve this despite any problems that occurred early on. Once our goal was set, we never stopped working to reach it and we’re still going for it.”

Many Jackson alumni around Miami-Dade County, even current coaches at rival schools such as Miami Central defensive coordinator Max Edwards are pulling for their alma mater and hoping this year’s team might have what it takes to break through.

Edwards played strong safety for Jackson and was part of a team that won a district title in a tiebreaker over Northwestern and Central in 1982 before losing to Killian in the first round of the playoffs.

“In the playoffs, everybody adjusts and they have,” Edwards said. “Their team is playing on a different level right now. Each opponent they faced during the season made them better.

“I’m so proud of them and coach Brown and the job they’ve done this year. Everybody in the Jackson nation is pulling for them all over the country.”

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