North Miami Beach entered the week with only one win.
The Chargers had been shut out three times this season — including a forgettable rout against Carol City last week.
All that mattered was the result on the scoreboard Thursday night at North Miami Stadium after NMB secured a crucial 22-9 district victory against Reagan.
The win put the Chargers (2-5, 2-1 in District 13-8A) in prime position to reach the postseason after coming up short last season.
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If NMB wins its two remaining district games against Hialeah Gardens and Hialeah, and Reagan (5-2, 2-1) loses to district frontrunner North Miami next week, NMB is assured a playoff berth.
Bertani credited his team’s strength of schedule for preparing it for a potential strong stretch run.
The Chargers’ five losses this season came against teams with a combined record of 22-8.
“We talked all year about the district and how much it would pay off to play a tough schedule,” NMB coach Jeff Bertani said. “We have a lot of four year kids that are used to hearing all my motivational speeches. I have to come up with new ways to get them up for games.”
NMB’s four-year starters such as senior quarterback Cedric Wiggins felt Thursday’s win could be a turning point.
“This was a huge one for us because we knew it could put us in the playoffs,” Wiggins said. “Everybody came up big when their number was called.”
Wiggins completed 14 of 19 passes for 119 yards and threw a pair of second-half touchdown passes to help NMB score 14 points in the fourth quarter.
He also ran for 41 yards and a touchdown and averaged 40 yards on three punts, improving NMB’s special teams performance which was atrocious against Carol City.
“Cedric proved what kind of player he is tonight,” Bertani said. “He’s had some ups and downs, but he’s grown up around the program and me. I expect so much out of him and I know in times like these, he’s going to come to play.”
NMB’s defense held Reagan to one score in the second half on Steven Mejia’s 31-yard field goal that gave the Bison a 9-8 lead. They also limited Reagan, which ran for 330 yards overall in its previous district game against Krop, to only 125 rushing yards.
NMB also forced and recovered three fumbles — each of which it turned into touchdowns.
A fumble recovered by Bryan Soto in the fourth led to Wiggins’ 7-yard touchdown pass to Dimitri Pierre Louis that put NMB ahead for good. Jordan Atkins ran in the two-point conversion giving the Chargers a 16-9 lead. Pierre Louis finished with eight catches for 91 yards.
After another fumble, NMB put the game away when Wiggins capped a drive with a 1-yard sneak.
Trailing 6-0 before halftime, NMB’s Schnieder Jonassaint recovered a fumble that led to the Chargers’ first touchdown — a 7-yard touchdown pass from Wiggins to Soto. Emmanuel Lubin’s end around run for two points gave NMB an 8-6 halftime lead.
“We talked about character before this game,” Bertani said. “All season when an opponent has done something, we haven’t fought back. When Reagan scored on the opening drive, we held them after that and the turnovers were huge.”