Like many football teams wanting to show support for breast cancer awareness this month, the American Heritage Patriots outfitted their all black uniforms Friday night with touches of pink.
Some players wore pink gloves or pink wrist bands or pink socks. For a half, though, it felt like the referees wanted them to wear more pink.
The Patriots, ranked No. 1 in the Miami Herald Top 20 poll and No. 1 in the state in Class 5A, were flagged 15 times for 138 yards in the first half (19 for 178 yards overall), helping rival Cardinal Gibbons keep its hopes of an upset alive.
Eventually, though, Heritage stopped making it rain pink hankies and got back to pounding the rock, rolling past the visiting Chiefs 29-9 in an important District 16-5A showdown.
“And the crazy thing was we were at home,” Heritage coach Patrick Surtain said of the penalty discrepancy (Gibbons was flagged 11 times for 78 yards).
“I'd say about two-thirds were questionable calls. I mean it's football man. Guys are tussling and it seemed like every penalty went against us. We have to expect that. But praise our kids man. We fought through that and came out with the win.”
Leading 7-2 at the half, the Patriots (7-0, 3-0) scored on their first three possessions of the second half to take command en route to their seventh win in a row over the Chiefs (5-1, 2-1).
Miles Jones ran for a team-leading 92 yards and Abraham Alce ran for a pair of second half touchdowns as Heritage accumulated 246 yards on the ground on 42 carries. The Chiefs’ Air Raid attack, meanwhile, was no match for the Patriots vaunted secondary and pass rush, finishing with only 158 yards total offense.
Gibbons quarterback Nikolas Scalzo finished 11 of 29 passing and could never find a rhythm with defensive end Andrew Chatfield and company breathing down his neck.
“They’ve been playing lights out the whole year,” Surtain said of his defense. “But also credit the offense. They came out with those two drives after halftime and pounded them, wore them down. It propelled us to victory.”
After Jones scored on a 40-yard burst with 9:22 left in the third quarter to put Heritage ahead 13-2, the Chiefs answered a minute and two seconds later. Receiver Carlos Sandy had a thrilling 61-yard catch and run that setup a 2-yard touchdown plunge by Dave Small.
But that was as close as Gibbons got.
Heritage followed up Small’s touchdown run with a 10-play, 61-yard scoring drive capped by a 12-yard Alce dash into the end zone.
Alce then capped the final fourth quarter scoring drive with a 25-yard touchdown run.
The Patriots put together a 14-play, 78-yard scoring drive on their second possession of the game to take a 7-0 lead. Senior Jason Brown, who was 4-for- 6 passing on the drive for 40 yards, scored on an 8-yard run with 10:53 left in the second quarter to cap the series.
The Patriots offense didn’t get a first down the rest of the half and instead went backwards among a trio of holding penalties. It eventually caught up with Heritage when punter Zack Thomson stepped on the back line in the end zone with 4:53 left in the half for a safety.
The Chiefs, though, couldn't take advantage of all the help the Patriots were giving them with penalties and great field position. The half ended with kicker Griffin Cerra missing a 40-yard field goal on the final play.
Friday’s game was the first for both teams in the month of October, which is breast cancer awareness month. Some officiating crews like Friday’s are using pink flags instead of the traditional yellow flags to call penalties in support on the movement.
The Patriots had won the six previous meetings between the teams, mostly in blowout fashion.
Before Heritage held on for a 21-14 win at Gibbons last year, the Patriots steamrolled the Chiefs 50-0, 71-24 and 70-19 in the previous three meetings.
Since losing in the kickoff classic to four-time defending Class 4A state champion Miami Booker T. Washington, the Patriots, ranked No. 12 nationally by MaxPreps, reeled off wins over Georgia power Colquitt County, New Jersey power Don Bosco Prep and Class 6A state-ranked Miami Northwestern before rolling over district rivals Coconut Creek and Stranahan by a combined score of 99-6.
The Chiefs, who were 4-6 last season and haven't made the playoffs since 2011, will have a chance to bounce back next week in a pivotal District 16-5A showdown at Hallandale, which is 3-0 in the district.