One decade after last making a postseason appearance, the drought came to an end for the Miami Edison football program on Friday night.
This after the Red Raiders prevailed over Monsignor Pace 22-15 in a showdown of second place teams in District 8-4A at Curtis Park. Edison remained undefeated both overall (6-0) and in district (3-0) and will square off against Booker T. at Traz Powell on Oct. 27 to determine the district champion.
“A lot of emotion out there tonight and a great night for Edison football,” said Red Raiders head coach Napoleon Joseph. “We knew this would be a dogfight tonight. Pace knew they had their backs to the wall and would be eliminated with a loss and it’s tough to play a team in that situation. I’m just real proud of my kids for finding a way to get it done out there.”
Trailing 22-7, Pace (3-2, 1-2) put together a long 14-play, 87 yard drive and cut the lead to seven when Stefon Francis went in from a yard out and then ran in the two point conversion with 4:21 left.
But the Spartans would never see the ball again. With all three timeouts, Pace kicked deep and Edison grounded out a pair of first downs to bleed out the rest of the clock. The big moment came when Edison faced a fourth down and half yard to go at its own 34 with over three minutes left and Joseph rolled the dice. A handoff up the middle to E.J. Thomas netted a yard and a half and fresh set of downs.
After using its last two timeouts, Pace could’ve still gotten the ball back as Edison faced a third-and-12 at its own 34 when Lamont Finnie Jr. took a pitchout and got 14 yards and the celebrating on the Edison sideline began.
“My goodness. Coming over from Central three years ago and to come over here and stick to the process having gone through a lot of tough years, it just feels so great to deliver something like this to the school,” said Edison quarterback Malcolm Vigille who completed 9-of-16 passes for 129 yards and one score. “The key to us getting this done tonight was discipline. Everyone just going out there and doing their assignments. No mental errors. Now we’re looking forward to that Booker T. game in two weeks. We’re setting the bar high here now. Our goal is state in Orlando.”
The Red Raiders couldn’t have gotten off to a better start when, on Pace’s second offensive play, Tavares Stirrup fell on a Spartan fumble and returned it to the Pace 22.
Two plays later, Thomas busted up the middle from 16 yards out for the score and Edison led 6-0 after the PAT was blocked.
But if there is such a thing as a game-turning play in the second quarter of a game, it happened for the Red Raiders 8:20 before halftime.
The Spartans, facing a fourth-and-goal inside the Edison one, went for it and tried a quarterback sneak. With his teammates pushing him forward towards the end zone, Pace quarterback Jaheem Joseph had the ball ripped out from his grasp by Kareem Gaiter who emerged from the pile and rambled 100 yards for the Red Raider touchdown. Malcolm Vigille ran in the two point conversion and instead of a 7-6 Pace lead, it was 14-0 Edison.
“I blitzed from the outside and he (Joseph) was trying to bounce it to the outside,” said Gaiter. “I made contact and as I did, I just got my arm in there and ripped it out. We call it a ‘hit and pull.’ I came out of there and saw nothing but green turf. I love making big plays and that was a big one.”
Pace finally was able to finish off a drive on its next possession when the Spartans got good field position at midfield following the kickoff and drove 48 yards in 12 plays, Terrence Crittenden going over from 2 yards out 2:09 before halftime to slice Edison’s lead in half at 14-7.
Edison quickly got it to 22-7 when Vigille, on the first place of the second half, found Thomas on a simple swing pass that Thomas turned into a 60-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Vigille then ran in the two point conversion.
Said Napleon Joseph: “This is so huge for us tonight, our biggest game in the last 10 years and now we’ve got an even bigger one coming up against Booker T. That’s going to be the game. That’s for the district championship. We’re not content with just making the playoffs, we want to get that home playoff game in the first round.”