Columbus was worried about Plantation American Heritage star running back Sony Michel — and for good reason.
Yet if the Explorers overlooked Isaiah McKenzie it cost them. Big.
McKenzie burned Columbus for three long touchdowns (two coming on back-to-back plays on separate possessions to close the first half) in leading host American Heritage to a 42-7 victory over the rebuilding Explorers in Plantation.
The Patriots (2-1) led 6-0 late in the second when Michel — who scored Heritage’s first touchdown — burst out for what appeared to be a 96-yard run. Officials called holding, however, and the Patriots were facing third down at their 15.
McKenzie, who is being recruited by the likes of Notre Dame and West Virginia, took the handoff from backup quarterback Brandon Vicens and raced 85 yards for a touchdown. This one wasn’t called back.
After a punt, McKenzie caught a short slant from Vicens at midfield on the ensuing play and sprinted into the end zone. Instead of being down six at the half, the Explorers were suddenly down 21-0.
McKenzie then returned a punt 80 yards midway through the third to make it 28-0.
With Michel on the sidelines after the long run, McKenzie said he wanted to “take the game into his hands.” He did.
“That was a good old-fashion butt whopping,” Columbus coach Chris Merritt said. “We wanted to be close at the end of the third, take over with our conditioning. But those big runs deflated us.”
Michel, who has committed to Georgia, bulled in from the 1-yard line in the third quarter to help set a running clock in motion during the fourth.
Michel ended with 91 rushing yards.
Columbus didn’t get on the board until midway through the quarter when quarterback Beirne Tucker and Xavier Williams hooked up for a 28-yard score down the left sideline. Despite the running clock, Heritage added a score in the final minute on Juwan Dowels’ 65-yard interception return.
“Big plays have been there for us this year, and we’re grateful for the opportunities,” first-year Heritage coach Mike Rumph said. “We need to clean things up, though. Those penalties are going to hurt us in a big game.”
Gibson, injured during the run back, was attended to on the sideline and taken off the field on a stretcher. Rumph said he didn’t have an update. Gibson was taken to Westside Hospital.