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.