Quarterback Torrance Gibson’s absence in the first half played a factor in American Heritage’s performance Saturday night against Miramar.
Gibson’s eventual return to the lineup helped Heritage score its first major victory of the season.
After being benched for the first two quarters for disciplinary reasons by the team, Gibson’s mere presence opened up American Heritage’s running attack and helped it rally for a 30-26 road victory over Miramar in a clash of Broward County powerhouses.
“We want Torrance to become the leader we know he can be for this team,” American Heritage coach Mike Rumph said. “The minute he started to do that was toward end of third quarter. I hope it’s a valuable lesson. My job is to prepare him for college and teach him that if you do the right things, you will be rewarded for it.”
Heritage (1-1), which dropped from the national rankings following last week’s 38-7 loss to St. Thomas Aquinas, knew the importance of avoiding a 0-2 start and a win against another one of the state’s best in Miramar (1-1), the top-ranked team in the state in Class 8A.
“It’s a big-time win; we had to win,” Rumph said. “We got down, but we fought back and I think this team learned a lot from this.”
A struggling Heritage offense faltered for most of the third quarter as Miramar took advantage of two fumbles and a safety to score 23 unanswered points and take a 26-10 lead.
Miramar’s defense had been crowding the box putting seven defenders near the line and limiting Heritage to only 67 rushing yards in the first half.
Heritage sophomore quarterback Jason Brown started for Gibson. Gibson’s first play of the game on Heritage’s second series of the quarter was actually a disaster as a screen pass to Dredrick Snelson was fumbled, giving Miramar possession at the Heritage 3-yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Demari Simpkins ran for a 1-yard touchdown.
But on Heritage’s ensuing drive, Gibson’s dual-threat ability prompted Miramar to shift strategy to account for his running ability. The move opened up the running game for Heritage from that point on allowing it to score the final 20 points of the game.
Sophomore running back Kyshuan Bryan was the major benefactor finishing with 200 yards on 14 carries and scoring three consecutive touchdowns to lead the comeback. Bryan had only 22 yards rushing in the first half.
“I thought we came back thanks to Torrance Gibson because their defensive ends didn’t know what to do,” Bryan said. “The middle was wide open from that point on.”
Miramar had one final chance to win the game in the closing seconds, driving to the Heritage 10-yard line. Heritage’s defense rose to the challenge forcing three consecutive incomplete passes.
On fourth down, Heritage star defensive back Tarvarus McFadden intercepted the fade pass by Simpkins in the end zone as time expired.
Heritage’s secondary also made a momentum-swinging play late in the first half as Miramar appeared ready to take a 10-0 lead. Nick Peart snared a pass that bounced off the hands of a Miramar receiver and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown, giving Heritage a 7-3 lead.
“The whole summer, this is what we’ve been training for, winning games in the fourth quarter,” McFadden said. “We didn’t start the game the way we wanted to, but we stuck together and had an overall team victory.”