Six days after suffering an upset loss to Killian that left District 16-8A in a four-way logjam at the top, the South Dade Buccaneers, a team many had advancing all the way to the state semifinals as recently as a few weeks ago, suddenly found themselves in a battle for their playoff lives on Friday night.
And thanks to “In Khalil We Trust,” the Bucs responded with a 19-3 victory over Coral Reef at Southridge High School, successfully securing the District 16-8A runner-up position after learning that Killian had won it with their win over Southridge.
As he has been many times this season, quarterback Khalil Render was the catalyst of the South Dade offense, completing 10 of 15 passes for 121 yards and three touchdowns, and rushing for 96 more on 12 carries on the ground.
“They like to say ‘In Khali We Trust’ around here,” Render said. “And that’s great with me. They put it on my shoulders, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We wanted to come tonight and make an example of Coral Reef and tell Killian we’re coming for them, and we managed to do that.”
South Dade (8-1, 3-1), ranked No. 11 in the Miami Herald South Florida Top 20 poll, will now go on the road to face Southwest in the first round of the playoffs. A potential Killian/South Dade rematch would not take place until the third round.
“We showed plenty of resolve after the loss last week and just got back to basics this week,” South Dade coach Nathaniel Hudson said. “We just kind of scaled everything back and worked on fundamentals along with timing, proper reads and communication.
“Now the reset button gets pressed. Everybody is 0-0 and now we’ll just work on getting refocused for the postseason.”
A slow start in the first half had some wondering if the Bucs would even see the postseason as they struggled to move the ball on offense and trailed 3-0 following a 40-yard Coral Reef field goal 2:58 before halftime.
That’s when Render started getting his offense moving as he took South Dade 53 yards in six plays, the payoff touchdown being a spectacular one-handed grab of an 8 yard touchdown pass by Tyre’ Brady in the corner of the end zone to make it 7-3 at the half.
“I thought that was the biggest drive of the night,” said Render. “We started slow against Killian and did it again tonight.
“We needed to get something positive to take to the locker room at halftime so that was big.”
Render then took his offense on another scoring drive to open the second half, hitting C.J. Worton on a 6-yard scoring toss to make it 13-3 before wrapping up the scoring with a 22 yard strike to Johnnie Hankins with 6:33 left in the game.
Coral Reef, which entered the game with playoff aspirations of its own and could have won the district with a win, fell to 5-4 overall and 2-2 in the district.