Despite losing star offensive playmakers Sony Michel and Isaiah McKenzie to graduation and the University of Georgia, Plantation American Heritage proved in Sunday’s preseason game against Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer that it still has an abundance of firepower to defend its Class 5A state title.
With senior quarterback Torrance Gibson providing six total touchdowns — five passing — and junior wide receiver Dredrick Snelson scoring on three long touchdown receptions, host American Heritage trounced defending Class 7A state champion Dwyer 49-23 in a nationally televised game on ESPN on Sunday afternoon.
Gibson went 7 for 11 for 298 yards, 224 of which went to Snelson.
The tandem connected on a 72-yard touchdown on the Patriots’ final offensive play of the first half.
With 15 seconds remaining after Dwyer blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown, instead of kneeling on the ball to go into halftime, Gibson tossed a superbly placed deep ball to Snelson to take the momentum back.
“I told [Snelson], ‘Don’t look back. Just keep running until you blow past him,’ ” Gibson said.
“I knew he was going to go get it, so I just threw it as far as I can, and he just came down with it.”
American Heritage coach Mike Rumph decided the conservative route to halftime was not the call for his quick-strike offense.
“We feel like when we get on the field, we just want to play the game,” Rumph said.
“We just want to play football, and we showed that from the beginning to the end of the game.”
Snelson, who has already committed to the University of Miami, displayed his ability to get behind the defense on that play, but he also showed his open-field prowess on his other two scores.
Snelson scored on touchdowns of 65 and 89 yards on shorter patterns where most of the yardage came after contact.
“After I get the ball, I just look for creases,” Snelson said. “I know I can break tackles. That’s easy for me.”
Another bright spot for the Patriots was the performance of sophomore running back Kyshaun Bryan.
He eclipsed 100 yards rushing in the first half and finished with 143 yards on 17 carries.
Senior receiver Janarvis Pough, a McArthur transfer, caught a 44-yard strike from Gibson early in the fourth quarter that buried Dwyer.
Now the focus for Heritage shifts to a battle against St. Thomas Aquinas at Sun Life Stadium, in a game between the Miami Herald’s top two programs in South Florida.