Tucked away in a quiet little northwest corner of Davie sits Western High School which has a football program that has flown mainly off the radar for a very long time.
But Friday night, the Wildcats stepped right into the limelight as they traveled to Miramar High for a District 12-8A showdown and, with a berth as the district runnerup in the upcoming playoffs on the line, pulled off a stunning upset, shocking Miramar 7-6.
The winning score came with just 54 seconds left in the game when running back Keshaun Clarke went over from four yards out and Slade Berrios coolly drilled the extra point.
The Patriots drove to Western’s 44 but a huge sack by Kevin Oliver, his county-leading 15th of the year, put Miramar back at its own 40. Quarterback Ranny Williams’ desperation heave into the end zone on the game’s last play was picked off by Danny Sanders to lock things up.
The win put Western in the playoffs for the first time since 2010 and only the sixth time in the 35 year history of the program, leaving Western head coach Adam Ratkevich breathless when it was over.
“Western has never beaten Miramar in 35 years so for me, as a Miramar alum (Class of ’89) to bring these kids in here tonight and get something like this done in a dogfight like this is just unbelievable,” said Ratkevich. “We pride ourselves on winning the second half which we’ve done all year so when we went into the locker room 0-0 at the half, I told them we were right where we wanted to be.”
Even with that, it appeared the Wildcats were in big trouble. Having generated very little offense all night long, they trailed Miramar (7-3, 4-2) 6-0 and took over for one final possession at their own 20 with 5:04 left.
But, somehow, some way, quarterback Harrison Story engineered a 13-play drive that culminated with Clarke’s score.
“Four yards to glory,” said Clarke. “We had to have it and when your team entrusts you to take the ball in that situation, there was only one option and that was to find the goal line no matter what it took. What an incredible moment for this team and this program. Nobody in the world thought we could pull this off tonight. The only ones that did were all of these guys in white jerseys.”
Clarke and his teammates will travel north on Nov. 11 to take on Deerfield Beach in a first round playoff game after Deerfield won the District 11-8A title with a 35-0 win over Piper on Friday night.
“It was get it done or go home,” said Story of his team’s last drive. “We all believe in each other and always have each other’s backs. Nobody in the world thought we could come in and get this done tonight and look at us now, going to the playoffs.”
The Miramar offense struggled all night long but managed to get one score up on the board when quarterback Steve Williams found Anthony Needham for a 44-yard touchdown with 4:10 left in the third quarter. But Devin Adams’ extra point was wide left which would turn out to be huge later on.
It appeared that the Patriots had put the game away just before Western’s game-winning drive when Williams found Karon Brown for an apparent 49-yard touchdown pass with 6:36 left that would’ve made it 12-0. But the two officials in the end zone conferred and determined that Brown had gone out of bounds on his own and was thus an ineligible receiver nullifying the play. Two plays later Miramar punted giving Western the ball at its 20.
“This means so much because I don’t think anyone predicted us to win tonight,” said Oliver. “It’s been an uphill battle for this program since Coach Ratkevich came in here three years ago but we all pulled together like family and this is our reward.”
Said Ratkevich: I’ve been coaching for over 20 years and this is the finest group of young men I’ve ever been around. To come in here tonight and beat not a good program in Miramar but a great program says so much about their character.”