Back home at South Dade High School, C.J. Worton said he has a poster in his locker with pictures of his two older brothers and the words “be better.”
“I think I proved that [Saturday],” Worton said. “This means everything.”
South Dade's football program — one of the most successful in Miami-Dade County and built mostly on family tradition — finally reached the mountaintop Saturday night at the CItrus Bowl.
Led by Worton, University of Miami bound receiver Tyre' Brady and quarterback Kahlil Render, the underdog Bucs knocked off Apopka 41-28 to win the Class 8A state championship.
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Worton, who committed to Florida State and whose older brother J.J. is a star receiver at nearby UCF, hauled in six passes for 159 yards and three touchdowns. He also had what turned out to be the game-winner on fourth down with 2:03 remaining in third quarter.
Render was 16 of 20 passing for 304 yards and tied a state record with five touchdown passes. Like it has done all season, South Dade's aerial attack gave the Blue Darters (13-2) fits all night and ultimately proved to be the difference.
“You see exactly what happens — you have to pick your poison,” said 62-year old offensive coordinator Paul Bronis, a 35-year coaching veteran at South Dade who called his last game Saturday.
“We knew initially they were going to play us soft. We were going to nickel-and-dime them, and the minute they got aggressive we tried to get aggressive. We've had teams play us with every different way all year — soft zone, press with two high. Our guys have answered the bell in every situation. Khalil was incredible again [Saturday].”
On South Dade's second snap on offense, Worton caught a quick swing pass, made a move and raced 67 yards into the end zone. He drew a penalty flag for excessive celebration, but it set the tone for the night.
Brady then hauled in a 24-yard touchdown pass two plays into South Dade's second touchdown drive as the Bucs raced out to a 13-0 lead.
“Speed kills,” said Brady, who finished with six catches for 59 yards and returned the game-clinching fumble return 15 yards for a touchdown with 1:10 remaining.
“That's all it was [Saturday].”
Render said he spoke to former Miami Northwestern quarterback and current Louisville star Teddy Bridgewater before Saturday's game. Both of their mothers battled breast cancer and the two became friends over the phone.
“I called him and he told me to go out there and do what I had to do — make plays,” said Render, who finished his senior season by leading the county with 41 touchdowns and 2,827 yards passing and still has yet to receive a college offer.
“My mind-set coming into this game was just do what I had to do best. Just go out there and make the plays and not to worry about the pressure.”
Before the game, Worton said, he and his teammates were crying in the locker room.
“Having this game be our last game. it brought tears to a lot of people's eyes,” he said.
The bus ride back to Homestead ought to be a happy one.
“I guess maybe I've got bragging rights in the house for now,” Worton said of his brothers. “But they are both great players, and at the end of the day I can't really say anything because they're still bigger than me and they can still beat me up."