A week after it rolled around in the mud, South Dade’s football team danced in the rain.
An often-torrential downpour stymied the offenses of the Bucs and Coral Gables for most of Saturday afternoon’s game at Traz Powell Stadium.
With a little more than two minutes left, the rain subsided shortly after South Dade finally found the end zone and its path to its first berth in the state semifinals with a 6-0 victory in the Region 4-8A final.
South Dade (12-1) will host Palm Beach Gardens (9-4) on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Harris Field in a Class 8A state semifinal. Palm Beach Gardens upset nationally ranked Miramar in the Region 3-8A final.
“I told these guys after what they went through to expect another mental challenge,” South Dade coach Nate Hudson said. “This is something we talked about, but the reality of it is very emotional for us, and I’m just proud to be a part of it.”
Senior quarterback Khalil Render lobbed a pass over the middle to running back Johnnie Hankins for the game-winning 8-yard touchdown with 15.1 seconds remaining.
Hankins finished with 102 yards rushing on 24 carries in addition to the winning score.
“The defense really came through today, so it came down to me and the O-line to keep it going in the rain,” Hankins said. “[On the winning touchdown], we knew that play was open the whole game and coach kept telling me we’d come back to it.”
A week ago, South Dade survived rain and muddy conditions at Tropical Park to pull out a close win over district rival Killian, avenging its only defeat of the season.
After both teams sputtered on their first two possessions Saturday, heavy rain began falling and did not let up until around the 2:20 mark of the fourth quarter when it subsided to a light sprinkle.
South Dade completed its longest pass of the day when Render found C.J. Worton for a 27-yard strike deep into Coral Gables territory, eventually setting up the winning touchdown.
South Dade had good chances earlier in the game, driving into the red zone twice before the Coral Gables defense forced losses on downs or a turnover.
Senior defensive back Mark Wynn, a pivotal player during the Cavaliers’ deepest playoff push since 1985, recorded his ninth interception of the season in the second quarter. Wynn’s pick broke the school’s single-season record for interceptions previously shared by Neal Colzie and Billy Rolle.
But South Dade’s defense was stout once again keeping Gables out of its red zone throughout the game and rendering the Cavaliers’ offense one-dimensional under the rain.
Coral Gables quarterback Dijion Smith did not complete a pass in six attempts and was intercepted before the half by defensive back Mario Mezier.
Gables’ tandem of backs Gregory Howell and Keino Mike combined for 120 yards on 26 carries. But outside of Mike’s 30-yard run in the third quarter that did not result in any points, South Dade limited Gables’ big play opportunities.
South Dade’s finished with three sacks, including a crucial one that forced Gables to its own 3-yard line and eventually to punt after Render pinned the Cavaliers inside their own 10 with a 58-yard punt of his own.
“We needed to concentrate on their run because we knew that was their strength,” Hudson said. “I can’t overemphasize how great this defense has been all year.”
SOUTH DADE 6,
SD-Hankins 8 pass from Render (run failed)
Rushing (att-yds) -- SD: Brady 1-(-6), Worton 1-13, Render 16-41, Hankins 24-102. CG: Smith 4-(-14), Mike 5-55, Howell 21-65.
Passing (comp-att-int, yds)-- SD: Render 6-13-1, 67. CG: Smith 0-6-1, 0.
Receiving (rec-yds-TD) -- SD: Hankins 1-8, Brady 3-26, Worton 2-33. CG: