Miami High quarterback Isaias Castellon said he watched highlights of the second half of Super Bowl 51 on Friday morning.
A few hours later, Castellon and the Stingarees pulled their own unforgettable comeback.
Trailing 22-0 with three minutes left in the third quarter and facing elimination, Castellon threw three touchdown passes and Miami High scored four touchdowns overall to secure a 28-22 win against Columbus in the Region 4-8A final at Tropical Park.
“Before I got on the bus I watched the Tom Brady highlight and what he did to Atlanta,” Castellon said. “My teammates were depending on me. They told me you got to do like what he did to Atlanta and I knew I had to step up.”
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Columbus had one last-ditch drive to tie or even take the lead in the closing seconds, but quarterback Anthony Arguelles was stopped and stripped of the ball at the Miami High 1-yard line, and Stingarees’ defensive back Trenod Desrosier recovered to seal the win.
The dramatic rally secured Miami High its most meaningful win in over a quarter-century.
For the first time since 1992, Miami High (11-1) is one of the four remaining teams in the state’s highest classification.
Back then, it took only two wins to advance to the state semifinals. The Stingarees have won three postseason games this year — something they hadn’t done since the last time they won a state title (1965).
Miami High will travel to Delray Beach to play Atlantic for that semifinal on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“I’ve told these kids from the beginning of the season there’s nothing that can keep you from your goals if you have faith,” Miami High coach Sedrick Irvin said. “These kids have never lost their faith in each other.”
Irvin, an All-American running back at Miami High in the late 1990s, came back to his alma mater before the season after a college coaching stint at East Carolina University and a previous high school stint at Westminster Christian.
Irvin’s goal was to make Miami High a state championship caliber program again.
On Friday afternoon, several of its most famous alums were on-hand, including former wide receiver Andre Johnson.
After making the playoffs for the first time in seven years, Miami High won its first playoff game since 2000 this year, and is two wins away from winning its first state title in 52 years and what would only be its second championship in the playoff era that began in 1963.
“This is why you coach is to see these kids succeed,” Irvin said. “It’s a beautiful thing. It’s not about the pay here in Dade County. You have to have love for these kids.”
Columbus (10-2) took Miami High completely out of its offensive game plan for most of the first three quarters by containing senior Johnny Ford, the Stingarees’ most explosive weapon.
The Explorers ran for 174 yards overall as Arguelles scored two early touchdowns on the ground and finished with 75 yards. Henry Parrish Jr., ran for 83 yards on 28 carries and scored to give Columbus a 22-0 lead with 3:12 left in the third.
Castellon, who leads Miami-Dade County in passing with more than 2,700 yards and 33 touchdown passes, found Lamont Finnie open for a 42-yard touchdown to put Miami High on the board moments later.
Even though Columbus blocked the extra point, the score ignited the Stingarees’ offense.
Miami High’s Andrew Reese intercepted Arguelles and set up Ford’s 4-yard touchdown run.
Following two more three-and-outs forced by Miami High’s defense, Castellon connected with Ford for a 52-yard touchdown and later found a wide open Marcus Fleming for the go-ahead 85-yard touchdown pass.
“The game wasn’t over [at 22-0],” Castellon said. “We just needed to settle down because we knew it was our ball game.”