The Columbus Explorers (9-1) began their quest for a trip to the state tournament with a shutout victory against Homestead (6-4) on their home field Friday night in the Region 4-8A Quarterfinals.
The Explorers and their no-huddle offense dominated from the opening drive and never let up, scoring a touchdown on all of their offensive possessions in the first half to jump out to a 43-point lead at halftime.
Next up for the Explorers is a regional semifinal contest against South Dade on Nov. 17. Columbus’s 2016 season came to an end in the regional semifinals. This year, they hope to go a little further.
“This game showed that we got our edge back, and with the teams we’re facing from here on out, we need to amp it up,” Columbus coach Chris Merritt said. “When you have both sides of the football clicking, it makes a big difference.”
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The Broncos offense failed to gain traction all night long against a stingy Explorers defense, which held Homestead to 90 yards of total offense and forced the lone turnover in the entire game — an interception by linebacker Zachary Castano in the first quarter.
Columbus running backs Demetrius Ford and Henry Parrish Jr. finished with two rushing touchdowns apiece. Six of the seven Columbus touchdowns came through the ground as eight different Explorers combined for a 180 total yards rushing.
Even the Columbus special teams played a part in the victory with wide receiver Kalani Norris returning a punt 45 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter.
▪ Region 4-3A semifinal — Chaminade-Madonna 38, Delray Beach American Heritage 0: The host Lions turned to their top two offensive producers — running back Shaun Shivers and wide recevier Xavier Williams, Auburn and Alabama commits, respectively — and cruised to the victory.
Chaminade (8-2) advances to next week’s regional final where the Lions will host either Everglades Prep or Palm Beach Benjamin in a 4-3A regional final on Nov. 17. According to Chaminade officals, Calvary Christian in Fort . Lauderdale will be the likely location.
Shivers picked up 189 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns, and Williams had three catches for 58 yards and a 32-yard punt return.
Williams enjoyed an ESPN highlight reel touchdown in the second quarter when, despite being interfered with by Heritage cornerback Marcel Quince, made a horizontal diving leap for a 17-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Daelen Menard putting his team up 17-0.
“Today, our focus was just to come out and execute the way we know how, both sides of the ball. Turnovers on defense and big plays on offense. We fell short last year and don’t want to repeat that again,” Williams said.
Added Shivers: “Last year left a bad taste in our mouth and that’s been motivating us all season long.”
The Chaminade defense also enjoyed a big day holding Heritage (5-5) to 28 yards of total offense, five first downs (three of those were by penalty) and picked off three passes, one each by Justinn Richardson, Deidrick Stanly and Keane Lewis.
“Super proud of the defense today, I’m not sure how many turnovers they got but they really came out and got it done,” said Chaminade coach Dameon Jones who brought out what the Lions call their ‘Turn-up’ belt, the University of Miami’s answer to the turnover belt. “We bring it out for playoffs and call it the Turn-up belt because it’s for offense and defense. You make plays on either side of the ball, you get to hold the belt. The kids love it and have fun with it and we had plenty of opportunties to bring it out today. Now we want to keep everybody healthy and keep this thing going.”
▪ Region 4-4A semifinal — University School 44, Glades Central 21: Zay Flowers scored a key 64-yard touchdown early in the second half to lead the host Sharks to the victory.
Flowers, also added a 20-yard touchdown late, and ended up with 88 receiving yards. Junior Sharks running back Kenny McIntosh scored a pair of touchdowns rushed for 105 yards.
It’s University School’s first postseason victory since 2013. The Sharks (8-1), the No. 1 seed in Region 4-4A, will host Monsignor Pace in the regional final. They won the regular season meeting against Pace 27-22.
David Furones, Sun Sentinel
▪ Mainland 21, Norland 12: After four heartbreaking tries, the host Mainland Buccaneers have finally solved the Miami riddle.
Richard Kamara threw for 145 yards and a touchdown, and Demaurez Bellamy ran for two scores — including the go-ahead fourth quarter touchdown — as the Bucs beat Miami Norland in its regional playoff opener.
Mainland had lost four consecutive playoff games to Miami-based teams, including three in a row to Central from 2012-15, and last year to Carol City.