Devin Bush Jr., Flanagan’s defensive captain and leader who was lost to a season-ending broken wrist last week, teared up before Friday’s game as he told his teammates to “win this one for me.”
The “Dirty Birds” delivered.
Flanagan’s defense forced four Monarch turnovers and came up with its biggest stop in overtime on fourth-and-goal at the 2-yard line.
A throng of defenders, led by linebacker Natrone Ray, stuffed Knights quarterback Michael Harris 1 yard shy of the end zone, preserving Flanagan’s thrilling 27-21 victory in overtime in a Region 3-8A semifinal played at Deerfield Beach High’s Butler Stadium.
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“Last year at this time we lost in OT right here at this very stadium,” Flanagan coach Devin Bush Sr. said. “We had that experience, and it paid off. Now the Dirty Birds are going to the third round.”
The Falcons (12-0), enjoying the best season in school history, will host Wellington (11-1) next week. Flanagan almost blew a 21-7 lead in the fourth quarter as Monarch (10-2) took advantage of having strong 25-mph winds at its back in the final period.
Senior running back Cavarri Morrs ran the Knights back into the game, picking up the bulk of his 87 yards on 11 carries late. He scored on a 2-yard run with 11:01 to play and then on a 6-yard run with 2:11 remaining to help send the game to overtime.
Flanagan quarterback Ryan Stanley finished 12-of-23 passing for 142 yards and three touchdown passes — with all his touchdowns coming in the first half. He threw an 18-yarder to Keavon Mitchell, a 74-yarder to Emonee Spence and a 27-yarder to Walter Jackson with 12 seconds left in the second quarter.
But it was Stanley’s running ability that proved vital late. He ran for 69 yards on 11 carries and scored the go-ahead touchdown in overtime when he plunged in from a 1 yard out on third-and-goal.
Monarch cornerback Ronnie Hoggins quickly regained the momentum for the Knights when he broke through and blocked the ensuing extra point. But Monarch couldn’t get the ball in the end zone.
Morrs ran the ball down to the Flanagan 4-yard line on two carries. On third-and-goal, Harris threw a pass in the end zone to Cavin Ridley. But it hit Flanagan safety Stanford Samuels in the back.
After a pass-interference penalty on fourth-and-goal moved the ball up to the 2, Harris tried the zone read, faking the ball to Morrs and attempting to run into the end zone over the right tackle.
But The Dirty Birds were there.
“Last year we came up short in OT, and we told ourselves this year we’re going to go all the way,” said Flanagan linebacker Willie Williams, who had an interception and a fumble recovery in the first half. “We’re not going to lose again.”
After the game, Bush Sr. directed his team away from shaking hands with Monarch.
The two teams exchanged shoves and verbal barbs about 20 minutes before kickoff when several Monarch players came over to Flanagan’s side of the field while they were stretching.
“They got lucky,” Bush Sr. said after the game. “They didn’t even belong here.
“Miramar should have been in this spot. They talked trash in the paper all week. It’s different when you stand on the field with the Dirty Birds.”