With an eye on breaking into the record books as the first team in Florida to win five consecutive state titles, Booker T. Washington got things kicked off in the right direction on Thursday night.
The Tornadoes, who slumped midway through the season much the same way they did last year, appear to have caught their stride at the perfect time as they scored early and survived a fourth quarter rally, cruising to a 47-30 victory over Belle Glade Glades Central in a Region 4-4A semifinal at Traz Powell Stadium. It marked the fourth straight year that Booker T. has ended Glades Central’s season.
Booker T. (8-3) will host either district foe Edison or Clewiston next Thursday or Friday at Traz. Edison travels to Clewiston Friday night.
“We did some good things on offense but have to learn to execute a litter better on defense because it was a little bit of a struggle tonight,” said Booker T. coach Tim “Ice” Harris whose team gave up a truck load of yards (365), first downs (18) and points. “But offensively we got some good production out there and we needed it.”
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Harris was especially thankful to running back Craig Nelson who had a huge night, rushing for 194 yards on 27 carries and quarterback Daniel Richardson who, despite two costly interceptions, completed 11-of-17 passes for 157 yards and four touchdowns.
“I was hungry tonight and they fed me,” said Nelson. “I had to become a leader out there and my o-line was in there getting it done. We’re not thinking about any state titles. We’re just taking it one day at a time around here. We’ll worry about state when we get there. We have too much work to do before then.”
When Nelson bolted for a 48 yard score, his only touchdown of the night, the Tornadoes were seemingly safely up 34-18 midway through the third. But the Raiders (6-5), led by quarterback and Florida State commit James Blackman, came storming back.
After Richardson threw his second pick of the night giving Glades the ball at midfield, Blackman, who finished the night 17-for-26 for 194 yards, found Suirpriy Rinvil for a 33 yard score to cut the Tornado lead to 34-30 with 10:43 left.
But, facing a big third-and-six at the Glades Central 46, Richardson found Sharod Johnson in the left flat. Johnson juked a pair of Raider defenders and then cut back inside to turn the play into a 46-yard catch and run score to make it 41-30 with 7:46 left. Richardson then found Brian Livingston for a 9 yard score with 2:15 left to finish things up.
Booker T. took a 7-0 lead on its opening drive when, after rolling the dice and going for it on a fourth-and-six situation at midfield, made it pay off when quarterback Daniel Richardson found Craig Nelson for a 20-yard touchdown five plays later.
After Glades Central answered with a score, Richardson led the Tornadoes downfield and tossed a four yard strike to Robert Hicks to make it 14-6.
After the Raiders went for it on fourth-and-six at the BTW 36 and Guy Thomas sacked Blackman to end the drive, just two plays later Richardson ran a perfect read option, faking the handoff to Craig Nelson and took off around the left side untouched for a 50-yard score to make it 21-6 with 3:45 left in the half.
Said Harris: “If we can get the running game cranked up the way we did tonight and be able to find our receivers in space the way we did, we’ll be where we need to be. But no peaking ahead. This is a day-to-day, week-to-week, stay humble-and-focused process. It’s all about sticking to our fundamentals and techniques. If we do that, everything else will take care of itself.”