Not every team can afford to rest its star running back in a playoff game and survive.
Coral Gables’ depth, however, allowed it that luxury Thursday night.
With senior running back Gregory Howell — Miami-Dade County’s leading rusher entering the playoffs — hobbled by a thigh injury, Coral Gables turned to sophomore Keino Mike for the second consecutive week.
Mike didn’t disappoint, rushing for 171 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cavaliers to a 31-14 win over Hialeah in a Region 4-8A quarterfinal at Tropical Park.
Coral Gables (10-1), which advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the second consecutive season, will host either Columbus or North Miami next Friday.
Mike also filled in effectively for Howell last week in a win against Southwest, rushing for 127 yards on only seven carries. Mike carried the ball 17 times against Hialeah, balancing an offense that totaled 424 yards overall.
“We’re about to make a big push and we want our work horse to be rested,” Coral Gables coach Roger Pollard said. “I don’t know how many teams can say their best player had two quality weeks off. Mike is a work horse and no one’s seen him all year so it shows hard work pays off.”
The Cavaliers scored 24 unanswered points in the first half after Hialeah’s Henry Bussey broke loose for an 85-yard touchdown run on the game’s second play.
Senior quarterback Dijion Smith threw a pair of touchdown passes and finished 11 of 18 for 187 yards.
Smith’s first touchdown pass, a 13-yarder to freshman Kemore Gamble, tied the score at 7. His second, a 5-yarder to Shaquery Wilson, put Gables ahead 21-7 late in the second quarter moments after a muffed punt by Hialeah (6-5) gave the Cavaliers the ball at the 5-yard line.
Gables’ depth isn’t limited to its offense, however.
In nearly every one of its victories this season, the Cavaliers have had contributions on defense from different players.
Senior Mark Wynn came up with two interceptions Thursday, bringing his season total to six. Senior linebacker Emilio Gibbs had a key fumble recovery in the second half to stop a promising Hialeah drive.
Pollard wasn’t happy with the team’s inconsistency and continual problem with penalties.
Gables was penalized 12 times for 135 yards, which kept it from scoring in the second half until late in the fourth when Mike ran for a 19-yard touchdown.
“We just have to start playing better football,” Pollard said. “We’re not too dependable right now. We play lights out football and then we play lights on. But we keep finding a way to win games.
“I’ll probably be doing more yelling at them than praising this week,” he said.
CORAL GABLES 31, HIALEAH 14
HIA-Bussey 85 run (Puerta kick)
CG-Gamble 13 pass from Smith (M. Hernandez kick)
CG-Keino 65 run (M. Hernandez kick)
CG-Wilson 5 pass from Smith (M. Hernandez kick)
CG-FG M. Hernandez 32
HIA-Edouard 16 run (Puerta kick)
CG-Keino 19 run (M. Hernandez kick)
GIRLS’ BASKETBALLSunset 61, Reagan 54: Sun (1-1): RR (1-1): Ransom Everglades 41, La Salle 36: RE: LS: Varela 42, Palmetto 41: VA PAL: Westminster Christian 41, Colusa Prep 28: WC: CP: Booker T. Washington 31, Carol City 28: BTW (2-0): CC: Monsignor Pace 75, Westminster Christian 72: MP: American 48, Krop 45: AME (2-0): KR: Ferguson 60, Braddock 21: Coral Reef 57, Southridge 33: CR: . SR: Late Wednesday – Palmer Trinity 77, Southwest 37: PT (2-0): SW (0-2):
BOYS’ BASKETBALLWestwood Christian 69, Northwestern 63: WC: Gulliver Prep 74, Boca Raton 69: GP (1-0): BR (0-1): Doral Academy 51, Colusa Prep 50: DA:
BOYS’ SOCCERMiami Springs 4, Mater Academy 0: Gulliver 2, American 0: Columbus 4, Braddock 1: Belen 2, TERRA 0: Coral Reef 6, Killian 0: Everglades 2, Krop 2: South Dade 1, Southridge 0: Sunset 1, Ferguson 0:
GIRLS’ SOCCERKillian 8, Goleman 0: Florida Christian 8, Archbishop Carroll 0: Miami Country Day 3, Palmer Trinity 1: Dade Christian 8, Hillel 1: Archimedean 8, Westwood Christian 1: Late Wednesday – Miami Beach 3, Southwest 1: Late Wednesday – Gulliver 2, Westminster Christian 0: Late Wednesday – Lourdes 8, Braddock 0: