North Miami came painfully close to ending its long playoff drought a year ago.
Through the first month of the season, the Pioneers have shown they are ready to give it another shot.
Led by quarterback Hilton Joseph’s 262 all-purpose yards and three rushing touchdowns, and another solid defensive effort, North Miami remained unbeaten following a 21-14 victory against Miami Beach on Friday night at Memorial Field.
The game lasted more than three hours largely because both teams were called for a combined 32 penalties for 280 yards.
“It was a tough game, and we knew it would be ahead of time,” North Miami coach Ed Williams said. “We know the games are going to get tougher and tougher and that’s why we have to keep working hard.”
Joseph helped the Pioneers (4-0) spoil Miami Beach’s first game at Memorial in more than a year. The stadium underwent renovations during the past year and a half, including a new turf field and new scoreboard.
North Miami hadn’t allowed its first three opponents to put any points on the board, shutting out American, Hialeah-Miami Lakes and Hialeah Gardens.
Miami Beach (3-1) broke a 13-quarter scoreless streak by North Miami’s defense in the second quarter with a 31-yard touchdown run by Markel Anderson.
But the Pioneers defense didn’t yield much else, forcing five turnovers (three fumbles, two interceptions).
Junior Quentin Moore and senior Bryan Jacques each had interceptions.
Juniors Markes Scott and James Bell and senior Jordan Cherenfant each recovered fumbles as well.
“I tell our guys that defense wins championships,” Williams said. “We need to have a solid and sound one in order to win.”
Joseph gave North Miami the lead for good late in the first half when he broke a 27-yard touchdown run.
Joseph completed 26 of 42 passes for 229 yards.
The Pioneers, who have not reached the playoffs since 1999, play their two most crucial district games in the next three weeks, beginning with longtime rival North Miami Beach next Friday and then Hialeah Oct. 19. In between, North Miami will also play Coral Reef (3-2), another playoff contender.
“There are a lot of things we have to clean up, and we’re not satisfied,” Williams said. “We have bigger goals this season, and we have to get better in order to get there.”