North Miami Beach coach Jeff Bertani didn’t think his team was playing tough enough in the first half against Killian.
His halftime pep talk appeared to work as the Chargers overcame a 20-8 deficit to defeat the Cougars, 29-26, Thursday night at Tropical Park for their first win of the season.
“We play with heart,” Bertani said. “We don’t have that much talent. We’ve just got a bunch of kids who fight. And when they don’t fight, we don’t play well. And when they do, they play well. Good job by the kids responding in the second half.”
Buthler Jeans’ 2-yard touchdown run with 6:48 remaining in the fourth quarter proved to be the game winner, capping an eight-play, 75-yard drive.
On the ensuing Killian possession, the Cougars (1-2) started from their own 17 and drove to the opponent’s 26-yard line before a fumble on a handoff exchange turned the ball over.
Until that play, Killian’s offense was able to run a sweep play without much resistance. Jamaal Burgess finished with 212 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown, and Jordan Herrera collected 121 yards on seven touches and a touchdown.
“We had to come up with a big stop because we haven’t come back and beat a team,” North Miami Beach’s Cedric Wiggins said. “This is the first time we’ve done that.”
Wiggins and Steve Ishmael connected through the air nine times for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 30-yarder to open the scoring in the third for the Chargers (1-2).
After a rough first half of 9 for 20 with 98 yards, Wiggins bounced back to go 14 for 28 with 205 yards. He also added 40 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown in the third on the ground.
Though the Cougars tallied just three first downs in the first half, their quick strikes gave them a 20-0 advantage before the Chargers scored.
Following a turnover on downs by North Miami Beach, Herrera raced 98 yards for a touchdown two plays later. Nigel Dillard found Anthony Olivencia for a 14-yard touchdown pass — one of just two completions for the game.
Trumaine Washington’s 68-yard punt return for a touchdown made it 20-0 until Wiggins and Ishmael’s 38-yard connection with 7:40 left in the second.
“We learned to play harder,” Wiggins said of the team’s 0-2 start to the season. “We had been playing soft against Jackson and [Bradenton] IMG [Academy].
“We came back in the second half, hit people in the mouth.”