Booker T. Washington showcased its football team all season with stops as far as Las Vegas.
On Saturday night at the Citrus Bowl, the Tornadoes emphatically wrapped up their case to be named national champions.
Booker T. Washington (14-0), the consensus No. 1-ranked team in the nation, amassed 511 total yards in a 40-21 rout of Jacksonville Bolles, and claimed its second consecutive Class 4A state championship and third state title overall.
With the victory, Booker T. Washington is expected be voted the national champions some time within the next month.
“National champions? That sounds great,” Booker T. senior defensive end Chad Thomas said. “We made history for the first time and we’ll always be remembered for that. We never lost a game this season but went through plenty of adversity and found a way to work our way through it.”
The Tornadoes, who won their 26th consecutive game and completed their second unbeaten season in school history, would become the third South Florida school since 2007 to win a national title joining Miami Northwestern (2007) and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas (2008, 2010).
“This is our third year together with this team and we watched the film of the [2011 loss to Bolles] as a unit,” Booker T. coach Tim “Ice” Harris said. “We wanted to make sure we understood what that moment meant to us. We wanted to come back after winning last year and compete for a national title.”
Booker T. cemented its unanimous ranking after a 28-17 victory over Miami Central in the second week of the regular season and has held it since with quality victories over schools such as Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, Davie University School and Cocoa.
Harris secured some personal history as well joining legendary Coral Gables coach Nick Kotys, former Miami Carol City coach Walt Frazier and former Miami Northwestern and Miami Killian coach Billy Rolle as the only Miami-Dade County coaches to win at least three state championships.
“This is a great step for us,” Harris said. “We’ve watched the development of our kids each year and that’s the work all of us as coaches have done to make sure our kids were ready for this moment. Thirteen of the teams we played this season have won at least one state title. We wanted to be in a position to solidify our status as national champions.”
After a sluggish first quarter, the Tornadoes scored 21 second quarter points to pull away from the 11-time state champion Bulldogs (10-4), whom Booker T. defeated in the Class 4A final for the second consecutive season.
Booker T. Washington joined Coral Gables, Miami Carol City and Northwestern as the only Miami-Dade County teams to win at least three state championships in the playoff era (1963). Miami Central can join the group next week if it wins the Class 6A state title.
The Tornadoes’ victory also marks the fourth time that Miami-Dade County has had two state championship teams in the same season. Hialeah Champagnat Catholic won the Class 2A state title on Friday. Central (Class 6A) and South Dade (Class 8A) will try to add to that total next weekend when each plays for state championships.
Sophomore running back Mark Walton, an early University of Miami commitment, emerged as another explosive weapon in the backfield for the Tornadoes this season. On Saturday, Walton led the offensive onslaught running for 124 yards and scoring two first-half touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Treon Harris, a Florida State University commitment, who returned from a knee injury in the playoffs completed 15 of 27 passes for 226 yards and threw two second quarter touchdowns to put Booker T. ahead 28-6 by halftime. Harris also ran for 86 yards and a touchdown despite appearing to be limping at times during the second half.
“Nothing was going to take me out of this game,” Harris said. “I would’ve had to break something to get taken out of this game. Anything sprained or anything I was going to fight through.”
Krondis Larry opened the second half with a 45-yard touchdown run.
After Bolles cut the deficit to 34-14, an injury to kicker/punter Jose Borregales put Booker T. in a bit of a special teams’ predicament. According to coach Harris, Borregales experienced concussion-like symptoms after making a tackle on a kickoff return before halftime.
Treon Harris, however, stepped in and delivered a 39-yard punt. On the ensuing drive, Booker T.’s defense, which had two sacks and eight pass break-ups, held Bolles on downs. Harris’ 7-yard touchdown run with 7:37 left in the fourth put the Tornadoes in front, 40-14, and the game out of reach.
“It feels great to overcome adversity and people said from the beginning that we were too little to win games like the one at Norcross and we just brought it every week,” Walton said. “We wanted to do something special that had never been done at Booker T. Washington and that was to finish as the No. 1 team in the nation.”