You don’t often hear coaches thank opposing teams for losses.
Flanagan coach Devin Bush did Friday night.
“Thank you to South Plantation,” Bush said. “We had some adversity that week. We had four starters out, three of which were suspended for disciplinary reasons, but no excuses.
“That game woke us up. We said from that point on, we can’t play like this anymore. We can’t act like this anymore.”
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Led by its swarming defense, Flanagan forced three fumbles, one of which Devin Gil picked up and returned 56 yards for a touchdown to cap the Falcons’ 35-0 rout at home of district foe Plantation.
That 13-12 upset loss to South Plantation on Sept. 18 left Flanagan — considered the frontrunner in Class 8A entering the season — behind three of its rivals in District 12-8A and all of its postseason goals in jeopardy.
Since then, the Falcons (5-1, 3-1 in district) have routed Western, Miramar and Plantation by a combined score of 108-6 and are now in sole possession of first place in the district following their win and South Plantation’s loss to Everglades.
Plantation (5-2, 3-1) still could make the playoffs if it wins its two remaining district games, but it would need Flanagan to lose one of its final two district games to win the district title.
“These kids just brought a tremendous effort,” Bush said. “To win this game and put ourselves back in the driver’s seat is a great feeling. We didn’t like that other feeling a few weeks ago.”
Gil (6-0, 205), a University of Michigan commit, recovered two fumbles and led Flanagan’s defensive charge along with Natrone Ray (fumble recovery), Devin Bush Jr. (several tackles for loss) and Fabian Gordon and Nikholi Jahgai, who each had a sack.
“We knew after that South Plantation game we had to put everything on us,” Gil said. “That loss left a real bitter taste. Ever since, every practice has been very intense, and we’ve been very focused on what we need to do.”
Flanagan senior quarterback Kato Nelson’s return to the starting lineup in recent weeks has been another huge plus.
Nelson, who returned from a torn meniscus injury sustained in the offseason, first played in a game Sept. 25 against Western. On Friday, Nelson threw for 198 yards on 12 of 17 attempts.
Nelson, an Akron commitment, completed two touchdown passes to Clevan Thomas, including a great catch and run down the sideline for 53 yards that started a running clock with 3:45 remaining in the third quarter.
Josh Metellus had a touchdown run as well, and finished with 60 yards on four carries as Flanagan ran for 123 yards overall. Dredrick Snelson had a touchdown run.
“It’s been so hard trying to do what we want to do without our starting quarterback in there,” Bush said. “We had to take our starting cornerback [Stanford Samuels] and move him to quarterback so we really lost two spots. It’s been great to see these kids fight through those situations.”
FLA-Metellus 15 run (run failed)
FLA-Snelson 1 run (Trujillo kick)
FLA-Thomas 24 pass from Nelson (Trujillo kick)
FLA-Gil 56 fumble return (Collins pass from Nelson)
FLA-Thomas 53 pass from Nelson (Trujillo kick)
Rushing (att-yds) -- PLA: Wright 1-1, Bellamy 1-1, Banton 7-26, Lawrence 11-31, Johnson 16-82. FLA: Bush Jr. 1-0, Johnson 4-15, Nelson 5-21, Snelson 3-27, Metellus 4-60.
Passing (comp-att-int, yds)-- PLA: Banton 13-19-0, 110. FLA: Snelson 0-1-1, 0, Nelson 12-17-0, 198.
Receiving (rec-yds-TD) -- PLA: Lawrence 1-(-3), Branch 2-8, Johnson 3-37, Sweet 7-68. FLA: Collins 1-10, Snelson 1-12, Johnson 1-13, Codner 1-17, Pearson 2-24, Goetz 3-41, Thomas 3-81.