ORLANDO -- This time Booker T. Washington’s football team finished.
A year after the Tornadoes let a state championship slip away against Jacksonville Bolles, they never let up during a 35-7 rout of the Bulldogs in the rematch between the two teams in the Class 4A state final Saturday night in front of a crowd of 2,413 at the Citrus Bowl.
Booker T. (13-1) scored 22 unanswered points in the second half to secure its second state title since the school reopened in 1999, and its first since 2007.
“Our whole motto this year was finish, finish, finish,” Booker T. junior quarterback Treon Harris said. “Last year, I felt like I was dead after we lost the way we did. This is so much a better feeling.”
Booker T. Washington’s 28-point margin of victory was the largest by any team over Bolles (12-2) in a state championship game, and only the third loss ever in the finals by the state’s leader in championships (11).
Bolles also lost its first state final since 2003, when it lost to another Miami-Dade County team (Monsignor Pace). The victory also marked the first time a Dade and Broward team won a state title on the same day, with Fort Lauderdale University School winning the Class 3A title earlier.
Booker T., ranked No. 18 nationally by MaxPreps, finished the season on a 12-game winning streak.
“They deserve what they got,” Bolles coach Charles “Corky” Rogers said. “This was no fluke. We gave it all we had. We didn’t play sharp, but we gave it all we had. Give them credit. They played this way all year. Coach [Tim “Ice”] Harris and those guys have good players and good coaches. They deserve it. They played well.”
Harris anchored the onslaught throwing for two touchdown passes and 245 yards on 11-of-19 passing, and running for three more touchdowns and 74 yards on 12 attempts. Booker T. outgained Bolles 440 to 187 in total yards even though Bolles ran 64 plays to the Tornadoes’ 57. The Tornadoes averaged 12.2 yards per passing play.
Booker T.’s defense was just as dominant recording five sacks overall and limiting Bolles to 62 rushing yards. Laqwan Scott, Tevin Evans, Moses Dany and Kelvin McMurtry each had a sack, while Matthew Thomas (a team-high nine tackles) and Dimitrius Gibson split on a sack. Scott also had an interception.
For junior cornerback Nigel Patten, the victory completed a year-long journey of redemption. Patten muffed a kickoff in last year’s 33-25 Bolles’ victory that was a turning point in the team’s fourth-quarter collapse.
Patten set the tone for victory from the beginning Saturday night when he intercepted Bolles quarterback Colby Peters on the Bulldogs’ first possession. On the next play, Harris fired a long pass to Deltron Hopkins, who hauled it in and ran the remainder of the 87 yards to the end zone for the game’s first score. Patten broke up two passes and finished with six tackles, four of which were solo. The only catch he gave up came in the third quarter with Booker T. already ahead 28-7 on a throw to the far sideline where he nearly tipped the pass away.
“I feel real good, because I know what it was like to be on the bottom, and now I know what it’s like to rise to the top,” said Patten, who already has a scholarship offer from Florida State, and finished with three postseason interceptions. “I came back in the summer and did what I had to do and just kept the faith the entire season. All week I’ve been focusing and staying to myself and thinking about what I had to do.”
For Booker T. coach Harris, the win gave him a chance to celebrate a second title with his “football family.”
During the Tornadoes’ first state title season, Harris coached his son, Brandon, now a cornerback with the Houston Texans, and Tim Jr., who was the team’s quarterbacks coach then.
Harris returned last season after a three-year stint as an assistant at the University of Miami. This time, Harris celebrated with Tim Jr. again (now Booker T.’s offensive coordinator), and his youngest son, Treon.
“This is an awesome feeling as a father,” Harris said. “Our family is a football family, so to watch Tim develop as a coach and coordinator and watching Treon grow from last year to this year is great. Now, our goal is to keep building and helping these kids to have a chance to come back and do this again next year.”