Twice Friday night, Plantation American Heritage senior Isaiah McKenzie took vicious hits from Miami Jackson defensive backs that left him dazed.
Twice McKenzie got back up.
And after twice being eliminated from the playoffs the past two seasons, McKenzie helped American Heritage finally get some payback against Jackson.
McKenzie hauled in an 18-yard touchdown pass from senior Torrance Gibson with 3:20 left to lead the Patriots to a 26-22 victory against the Generals at Curtis Park.
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“That kid has a huge heart and he makes some big plays for us,” American Heritage coach Mike Rumph said. “The main point of this week was to stress composure.”
American Heritage (5-1, 1-0 District 16-5A), ranked No. 7 in The Miami Herald’s South Florida Top 20, secured a crucial district victory against the No. 8 Generals (3-2, 0-1), who erased a 14-point deficit in the second half and nearly dealt Heritage another tough loss.
But senior Torrance Gibson, who completed only 5 of 11 passes for 144 yards, threw three touchdown passes — including the eventual game-winner with 3:20 left.
Jackson was unable to answer on its final drive when a couple of bad snaps disrupted plays once leading quarterback Quinton Flowers to fall to the ground for a 7-yard loss. Flowers’ fourth-down pass to Jovon Durante bounced off his hands ending the game.
“We expect to see [Jackson] again one more time so we keep going,” Heritage linebacker Carter Jacobs said. “There was havoc in that fourth quarter when we fell behind, and then we kept cool and I told the boys we’re still in the game.”
Flowers and Durante had no trouble connecting earlier in the fourth quarter to give Jackson its only lead.
After Jackson blocked a 29-yard field-goal attempt by American Heritage kicker Scott Wade, the Generals gained possession at their own 20.
Flowers, who finished 14 of 24 for 258 yards and two touchdowns, hit Durante in stride for an 80-yard score that put Jackson tied the game at 20. Flowers then took a snap in shotgun formation and ran in the two-point conversion to give Jackson the brief lead.
On the ensuing drive, it was Heritage that made a huge special teams play.
Dilan Thomas took the snap on a fake punt and ran five yards on fourth-and-5 to the Jackson 43-yard line. Two personal foul penalties following a late hit out of bounds on a sweep by Gibson moved the ball 30 yards further to the Heritage 18 setting up the game-winning score.
American Heritage hosts defending Class 4A state runner-up Jacksonville Bolles next week before playing its final two district games against Key West and Cardinal Gibbons.
“Even at 14-0 I knew Jackson would fight back,” Rumph said.
Heritage running back Sony Michel finished with 123 yards on 14 carries most of which came on an 84-yard touchdown run that opened the scoring on the first play of the second quarter.
Following a Jackson punt, Heritage scored on one play again when Gibson rolled out and found Dallas Perez for what Perez turned into a 38-yard score to give Heritage a 14-0 lead.
Leading 14-8 in the third quarter, Gibson threw a quick screen to the far side to McKenzie, who broke a couple of tackles and ran 50 yards for a touchdown.
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