After breaking new ground last Saturday to become the first Miami-Dade County flag football team to make a second-round state play-in game, the Monsignor Pace Spartans didn’t stop there.
Led by receivers Kadesha Floyd and Brandi Harrington along with quarterback Sabrina Cabrera, Pace cruised to a 26-7 victory Tuesday over Ft. Lauderdale Stranahan at Pace High School. And with the win, the Spartans not only kept their undefeated record intact (16-0) but became the first Dade team ever to advance to the FHSAA flag football state tournament. Pace will play at Osceola High School in Kissimmee on Friday and take on Delray Beach Atlantic in a state quarterfinal matchup.
“This win [Tuesday] tonight is a tribute to not only the girls on this team, but the girls from our program in years past that have helped pave the way to get us to this point,” said Pace coach John Rodriguez, now in his fifth year as the head coach of a program that’s in its eighth year. “Year by year, it’s been a step by step process, getting a little further each time and now here we are, breaking some more new ground.”
Floyd (five catches, 90 yards, two TDs), Harrington (four catches, 55 yards, one TD) and Cabrera (13-of-24 passing, 176 yards, three TDs) proved to be the offensive catalysts for Pace, and Jatoria Washington (11 tackles) and Ashley Naterpaul (four sacks) led the way on defense.
Pace took a lead it would never relinquish with 8:10 left in the second quarter when, on fourth-and-goal from the 10, Cabrera found Harrington in the end zone to make it 6-0. Out at midfield with just 46 seconds left until halftime, Cabrera found Harrington for 32 yards to the 10 and hit Floyd on a slant across the middle on the next play to make it 13-0 at the half.
After Harrington returned a punt 38 yards to the Stranahan two early in the third, Cabrera found the end zone on the next play to make it 20-0.
The Dragons (15-1) finally found some momentum when they answered with a 66 yard, nine play drive, with quarterback Jasmine Rowe (15-of-25, 130 yards) going over from a yard out in what was only the third touchdown given up by the Spartan defense all season.
After Stranahan got a three-and-out, Rowe then drove her team to the Pace 10 with six minutes left in the game when a fourth down pass was dropped. On the very next play, Cabrera hit Floyd deep across the middle in stride for a 70 yard catch-and-run score to clinch it.
“We’re proud to carry the Dade County banner to state for the first time,” said Harrington while being mobbed by jubilant teammates. “It was just a matter of staying the course and keeping our focus out there tonight and that’s what we did.”
“Give Pace a lot of credit, they came out tonight and wanted it more than we did,” said Stranahan coach Keidran Willis. “Even though we started playing better in the second half, we just fell too far behind.”
• Third-round state play-in — Saint Andrew’s 16, Columbus 11: The Columbus lacrosse team’s season ended at home, but not before the Explorers made history.
The only Miami-Dade County team ever to reach the third-round state play-in, the round that precedes state semifinals, fell to Boca Raton Saint Andrew’s (20-3), which has won the state title four of the past five seasons and hasn’t lost a match to a Florida opponent in nearly two years.
“It’s hard to appreciate it right now, but we went 19-3,” Columbus coach Jim DeLang said. “We lost to [Saint Andrew’s] 17-0 last year, and we were in the game right to the end. We played them well.”
After Columbus tied it at 10 four minutes into the fourth quarter, the Scots outscored the Explorers 6-1 the rest of the way for the decisive swing of momentum.
Saint Andrew’s outshot Columbus 57-24 Tuesday, and the Scots had an 18-2 advantage on second-half face-offs.
Connor Whipple scored five goals for Saint Andrew’s. Columbus attacker Grant Nordlund led the Explorers with four.
• District 12 semifinal — Mourning d. Hialeah Gardens 25-20, 27-29, 25-12, 25-14: Matheus Mera scored eight consecutive third-set service points to help the host Sharks defeat the Gladiators.
Mera had a game-high 18 kills, seven aces and three blocks.
Teammate Werner Sabban had 14 kills, four blocks and an ace. Daniel Barrera added 10kills and six digs.
The Sharks struggled, at times, against the Gladiators. Mourning trailed earlier in the first set after Hialeah Gardens started on a 3-0 run. Hialeah Gardens held their lead till midway in the set when the Sharks tied the game at nine on a kill by Sabban. Moments later, a second Sabban kill allowed the Sharks to slowly pull away.
The second set started similarly for Mourning. Trailing 7-3, the Sharks rallied to tie the game at 22, but the Gladiators played them point for point until eventually winning the set on a tip that Mourning miss played.
“We started a little lazy,” Mera said. “As the game went on we started playing like we usually play.”
The victory sets up a rematch of last year’s District 12 final, with Mourning hosting Hialeah-Miami Lakes at 5 p.m. Thursday. .
“They beat us last year. We really want that title,” Mera said.
In the first of two semifinals hosted by Mourning, Hialeah-Miami Lakes beat Monsignor Pace 25-21, 25-12, 25-16.
The Trojans’ Dennis Perez had 31assists, 14 points, seven digs and six aces in the straight-set victory.
“It was a hard game. [Pace] brought everything to the table,” he said. “We are lucky to enough to come with a win.”
After a slow start, Pace rallied from a seven-point deficit to close Hialeah-Miami Lakes’ lead to 23-21 in the first set. The two-point difference would be the closest the Spartans would come to winning a set in the match. The Trojans would go on to score the next two points on a block by Malik Morrow and a set-winning spike by Perez.
“I was trying to keep serving my best,” Perez said.
Teammate Gus Pena had 13 kills, nine digs and three blocks. Manny Celestino had 14 digs, 11 kills and 10 points.
• District 16 semifinal — Palmetto d. Westminster Christian 25-6, 25-5, 25-17: Five sets were needed for the Barracudas (19-6) to defeat the Cougars (12-9) in the District 16 semifinal at Palmetto Senior High School. Palmetto (15-10) played its semifinal game earlier and defeated Westminster Christian 25-6, 25-5, 25-17. Coral Reef and Palmetto will play the District 16 final at Palmetto at 6 p.m. Thursday.
With the sets even at two apiece, each team traded points and soon the score was tied, 8-8. The Cudas finished with a 7-2 run to win the set, game and semifinal. The winning point came on a kill by Zavier Peart.
"We knew it was going to be hard," said coach Yasmin Ortiz. "We have already played so many matches to five sets with really good teams and that’s what gives us the experience to go into that fifth set and perform accordingly."
Killian was able to win a very close first set when a double-touch error was committed by Coral Reef. The second set was close at the start, but the Cudas piled on the points and went up 22-11. Coral Reef won the second set on a serving error by the Cougars.
Coral Reef dominated the third set with leads of 11-1, 16-4, 23-9 and eventually won on a kill by Trey Holcombe. With all the momentum on Coral Reef’s side, Killian was able to grind out a tough win in a fourth set that was tied 10 times.
In the early game Palmetto was led by Kory Schulz who had 12 kills, eight digs and five aces. Tarek Saade had 26 assists, five kills and six digs. In the late game
Coral Reef was led by Malik Audain who had 12 kills, eight blocks and three aces. Anthony Caba had 47 assists.
• District 15 semifinal — Varela d. Ferguson 25-18, 25-19, 25-19: Verela advanced in district semifinals by sweeping Ferguson in dominating fashion.
Vipers were led by senior middle hitter Yoan Barrado. Barrado had 15 kills, 2 aces and a block.
Viper senior middle hitter Olisdanys Angulo led the team with three blocks.
• District 15 semifinal — Sunset d. Braddock 25-18, 25-21, 25-22: Braddock’s home field was no match for Sunset, as the Knights advanced to the next round by sweeping the Bulldogs. They face Varela in a rematch of last year’s district final.
Sunset was led by senior Jose Morales, who accounted for 5 kills, 6 digs and an ace. Junior Franklin also contributed with 4 kills and a block.
American baseball right-handed pitcher William Penelas signed with St. Thomas University.
Region 4-8A quarterfinal: South Dade at Sunset, 4
Region 4-8A quarterfinal: Coral Gables at American, 4
Region 4-8A quarterfinal at Alex Fernandez: Hialeah at Goleman, 7
Region 4-8A quarterfinal: Southwest at Killian, 4
Region 3-8A quarterfinal: Coral Glades at Flanagan, 7
Region 3-8A quarterfinal: Cypress Bay at Douglas, 4
Region 4-6A quarterfinal at Westland Gardens Park: Pembroke Pines Charter at Mater Academy, 7
Region 4-6A quarterfinal: Belen at Archbishop McCarthy, 7
Region 4-4A quarterfinal: TERRA at St. Brendan, 4:30
Region 4-4A quarterfinal at St. Thomas University: Gulliver at La Salle, 7
Region 4-4A quarterfinal: North Broward Prep at Monsignor Pace, 7
Region 4-4A quarterfinal at Cypress Park: Archbishop Carroll at Coral Springs Charter, 6
Region 4-2A quarterfinal at Miami Christian: Redland Christian vs. Brito, 4
Region 4-8A semifinal: Palmetto at Coral Reef, 2:30
Region 4-8A semifinal: American at Goleman, 4
Region 4-4A semifinal: Coral Springs Charter at Monsignor Pace, noon
Region 4-2A semifinal: Westwood Christian at Princeton Christian, 3
Region 4-6A semifinal at Bucky Dent Park: Pembroke Pines Charter at Mater Academy, 7
District 11 final at Miramar: 5:30
District 13 at Westland Hialeah - Semifinals: Westland Hialeah vs. Mater Academy, 3:30; Hialeah vs. Miami Springs, 5; Final: 6:30
District 14 semifinals at Ransom Everglades: Columbus vs. Ransom Everglades, 5; Florida Christian vs. Southwest, 7