Archbishop McCarthy players, coaches and parents stood at midfield Thursday night and chanted it loud and proud:
There were no state championships to be won Thursday night, but Mavericks players, two years after going independent and joining the Gold Coast Conference, found themselves 10-0 and in the GCC championship game.
And then found themselves proudly holding a big trophy high in the air posing for photos following their 28-20 victory over Key West at McCarthy High School to finish off an 11-0 season.
“I’ve been coaching for 40 years, and this is only my third undefeated season, it’s really hardy to do,” said McCarthy coach Byron Walker, who is finishing his fifth year at McCarthy after winning multiple state titles with Belle Glade Glades Day in the 1980s before a long successful career at Plantation American Heritage. “This is a big step in the right direction for this program, and now we’d like to repeat and do it again next year.”
McCarthy survived a game effort by the Conchs (6-5), who trailed 14-0 at halftime but, thanks to a super-human effort from running back Mekhi Sargent, came back twice. Key West tied the score at 14 after three quarters and, after McCarthy took a 21-14 lead on a 44-yard touchdown run by Willie Davis early in the fourth quarter, pulled within one when Alvin Howard scored from 12 yards on fourth-and-goal with 6:12 left.
But the Conchs, who did not have a kicker and had to go for two all night, came up short when quarterback Michael Cleaver fumbled the snap on the two-point attempt.
Just one minute later, McCarthy running back Anthony Rey capped off a huge 23-carry, 173-yard night when he bolted up the middle for a 66-yard touchdown run that put the Mavericks up by eight.
Andrew Hallman finished things off for McCarthy when he sacked Cleaver on fourth down with 90 seconds left with the Conchs out of timeouts.
“This is awesome. I never expected this,” Rey said. “When we went independent a few years ago, I didn’t understand it, but we needed it. We needed to play teams of our caliber, but now I think we’re above them, and even though I’m leaving, hopefully we can get back into a district and compete for a state championship.”
Sargent, who has multiple schools interested in his services, including FIU and FAU, was virtually a one-man show for Key West as he ran for 284 yards 21 carries and scored two touchdowns. He finished the season with 2,094 yards and is believed to have led the state in rushing.
Said Walker: “The game had its ebbs and flows. We pretty much dominated the first half, they came back out with a good plan in the second half and showed us a couple of things we hadn’t seen and made a great game of it. But in the end, our kids showed the poise they needed to find a way to get it done.”
AM - T. Messer 5 pass from Paul (Costa kick)
AM - T. Messer 42 pass from Paul (Costa kick)
KW - Sargent 77 run (Kelleher run)
KW - Sargent 10 run (run failed)
AM - Davis 44 run (Costa run)
KW - Howard 12 run (run failed)
AM - Rey 66 run (Costa kick)
Rushing (att-yds) -- KW: Cleaver 4-(-17), Howard 8-13, Kelleher 6-41, Sargent 23-284. AMC: Paul 2-(-12), Davis 7-97, Rey 23-173.
Passing (comp-att-int, yds)-- KW: Cleaver 0-5-0, 0, Howard 1-1-0, 55. AMC: Paul 3-3-0, 65.
Receiving (rec-yds-TD) -- KW: Avellanet 1-55. AMC: Messer 1-18, Messer 2-47.