It has been 189 days since South Dade defeated Coral Gables 41-28 in its spring game. Now, seasons are at stake when the Buccaneers face the Cavaliers at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Region 4-8A final at Traz Powell Stadium.
“We take this seriously,” South Dade coach Nate Hudson said. “This is a major challenge. Obviously, getting into the third round, most teams have a similar record.
“It has to be a focused game.”
The Bucs and Cavaliers each head into the game with 11-1 records, but the similarities end there.
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The Cavaliers defense will need to contain South Dade quarterback Kahlil Render and his flanker friends, who have connected for 2,238 yards and 32 touchdowns. Render has completed 58 percent of his passes this season. C.J. Worton — Render’s big- play target — is averaging 25.2 yards per catch, totaling 815 yards and 12 scores this season.
“We go in there with the mind-set that we need to make plays,” Worton said. “These people that are right in front of us are trying to stop us from our ultimate goal, and we have to get them out.”
The Bucs hope to keep the clamps on Cavaliers running back Gregory Howell, who has 1,502 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns this season. Bucs defensive backs must respect several receiving targets, especially Antiwone Johnson and Shaquery Wilson. Johnson has 511 yards on 30 receptions, and Wilson has 484 yards on 25 receptions. The duo each has five scoring grabs.
“Everybody has their personality,” Hudson said. “They are primarily a run team, but did make some changes throughout the year.
“We are going to be tested. They have some great athletes. We have to be respectful all of the field.”
The X-factor for the Bucs could be multipurpose back Johnnie Hankins, who has averaged 140 total yards in his past four games.
“It starts on the offensive line,” Hankins said. “If they block [well], which they have been doing, and if we balance the run and the pass, we should have a great game.
“I’m going to do what it takes to get the job done on the ground.”
South Dade has never been to the state semifinals. The victor plays the winner of Palm Beach Gardens and Miramar next weekend at Traz Powell Stadium.
“They say it’s hard to beat a team twice,” Hankins said. “The win in the spring was a good win, but we knew they are better than they were then.
“Just because we beat them in the spring doesn’t mean we can beat them again.”