South Dade’s players didn’t complain about the mud Saturday afternoon at Tropical Park.
For more than two hours on the sloppy surface, the Bucs thrived in it and later rolled around in it celebrating after they beat rival Killian 13-7 in a Region 4-8A semifinal.
Johnnie Hankins ran for 179 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, and South Dade’s defense limited Killian to 18 yards rushing and 101 overall.
South Dade (11-1) advanced to the regional finals for the fifth time since 2005 and likely won’t have to worry about poor field conditions next Saturday when it plays Coral Gables (11-1) at 1 p.m. at Traz Powell Stadium. South Dade has never made it to the state semifinals.
“This was all about redemption,” South Dade coach Nate Hudson said. “We had one slip-up this year, and we got it back and this is sweet. By no means is this over though.”
The Bucs avenged their lone defeat of the season, one that cost them the District 16-8A championship.
The Cougars (7-5), who entered the game on a six-game winning streak, were held to only three first downs (one by penalty).
“Our defense did a great job with our coaches preparing,” Hudson said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game with the weather conditions, and we made sure to get the little things done right.”
Killian’s lone offensive burst, however, tied the score at 7 with 3:54 left in the third quarter. Running back Nigel Dillard lined up at quarterback and delivered a perfect pass down the sideline to Anthony Olivencia in stride for a 67-yard touchdown.
Two drives later, South Dade responded with the go-ahead score when C.J. Worton jumped up and pulled down Khalil Render’s lob pass for a 28-yard score with 10:05 left in the fourth.
Although South Dade missed the extra point, its defense made sure Killian wouldn’t score again. Ponce Jones, who had two sacks, brought constant pressure along with Demetrius Willis (one sack).
Killian thwarted South Dade’s potent passing game in the first meeting between the teams Oct. 26 by intercepting Render four times. On Saturday, Render only put the ball in the air six times completing three of his throws for 58 yards due to the conditions.
South Dade used a run-oriented approach that paid off behind Hankins’ consistency behind a tough offensive line that gained traction in the mud throughout the game.
“This week was all about our offensive line and running the ball because we figured [Killian] was going to key on our receivers,” Hankins said. “Our O-line said all week [it was] going to get the job done and [it] did great."
SOUTH DADE 13,
SD-Hankins 7 run (Zitzun kick)
KIL-Olivencia 67 pass from Dillard (Escalante kick)
SD-Worton 28 pass from Render (kick failed)