Booker T. Washington coach Tim “Ice” Harris delivered a stern message to his team before Friday night’s Class 4A state semifinal.
“Maximum effort every play!” he shouted. “Running fast! Hitting hard! Being physical! It’s about being different than what they’ve seen on video! You’ve got to be better than last week to accomplish this mission!”
For the first time in a long time, the Tornadoes didn’t finish their mission. Cocoa ended Booker T.’s run of four consecutive state titles and five trips in a row to the state final with a 24-21 come-from-behind victory at Tiger Stadium.
Lasedrick King scored the game-winner on a 15-yard touchdown run with 1:25 remaining, helping top-ranked Cocoa (11-1) put an end to a streak of five consecutive losses to the Tornadoes (9-4) in the state semifinals.
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Booker T. quarterback Daniel Richardson, who ran for a touchdown and connected with receiver Sharod Johnson on another, took over at his own 20-yard line. But after taking a sack on third down, he could only pick up 11 yards on a pass to Tyquan Thornton on fourth-and-17.
“It hurts — it hurts big time,” Harris said afterward. “I’m a winner. All I do is win. I work my tail off to win. But I’ve got to work harder.”
Harris blamed himself for Friday’s loss. With BTW leading 21-17 early in the fourth quarter, he opted to go for it on fourth-and-8 at the Cocoa 12 instead of sending his kicker out for a field-goal attempt.
“I just wanted to put them away,” Harris said. “I felt like we had them on the ropes to put them away. That’s a call that I made. The coaches did recommend for me to kick the field goal. But I didn’t want to go up 7. I wanted to go up 10 and make them really chase us. Unfortunately it didn’t work out. Like I said, I didn’t do a good job [Friday].”
Special-teams blunders killed the Tornadoes.
Cocoa, which trailed 14-7 at the half, took a 7-0 lead midway through the second quarter when DeAndre Williams muffed a punt and the Tigers pounced on the ball in the end zone.
After Cocoa quarterback Bruce Judson tied the score at 14 with a 1-yard run on the opening drive of the second half, the Tigers blocked a punt on Booker T’s ensuing possession and took a 17-14 lead on a field goal.
Richardson, though, answered. He led the Tornadoes right back down the field and put his team in front 21-17 with 24 seconds left in the third quarter on a 1-yard TD run.
He finished 19 of 28 for 257 yards and an interception.
“It shouldn’t have ended that way,” Richardson said. “We were obviously the better team. I don’t know what happened.”