A team that has been so used to trotting into the locker room at halftime with big lopsided leads did nothing of the sort on Friday night.
Hosting Belle Glade Glades Central in a Region 4-4A final at Traz Powell Stadium, the Booker T. Washington Tornadoes, with their No.8 national ranking and 37-game winning streak on the line, only led the Raiders 7-0.
But thanks mainly in part to the hard running of running back Mark Walton, who finished with 166 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns, Booker T. exploded for four third-quarter touchdowns to initiate a running clock and cruised to a 35-7 victory.
And with that, the Tornadoes put themselves into the Miami-Dade County record books as it marked their 38th consecutive win, the longest winning streak in county history, surpassing Northwestern’s 37 in row from 2006 to 2008. Their last loss came in a 33-25 state title game loss to Jacksonville Bolles in 2011.
“It’s an honor for this team to be the one to take the record down, but this started a long time ago, and that’s a credit to my dad for what he did with this program and how far it has come,” said Booker T. coach Tim Harris Jr., referring to his father, Tim Sr., who left after last season to take a coaching job at the University of Miami. “This is a celebration of a lot of hard work and dedication from a lot of people along the way and I feel privileged to have just inherited that and continued along the tradition. Now we have more work ahead.”
Harris referred to next week’s big state semifinal matchup. The Tornadoes (12-0) will have to work hard to earn No.39 as they travel three hours north to take on Cocoa Beach, marking the fourth consecutive time the two teams have met in the same venue with Booker T. having won all three.
At halftime Friday, a trip to Cocoa didn’t look like a sure bet as the Tornadoes struggled to find the end zone in the first half, allowing Glades Central (9-3) to control the ball on a pair of long drives. But Booker T.’s defense responded both times, first with a stuffed running play on a fourth-and-2 at the 6-yard line and then on a Sammy Laster interception 90 seconds before halftime after Glades made it to the Tornadoes’ 17.
In between, they dented the scoreboard with a 12-play, 93-yard drive resulting in a 2-yard touchdown run by quarterback Maurice Alexander with 7:24 left in the second.
“We still felt like we moved the ball well in the first half, they [Glades Central] just did a good job of stopping us on one long drive and controlled it on us a little so we didn’t have a lot of opportunities,” Harris Jr. said. “But there was no panic in the locker room at halftime. and what that told me was the maturity and the growth of this team that they just kept plugging away and took care of business in the second half.”
Harris Jr. watched his team go 62 yards in six plays to open the second half, with Alexander scoring from 20 yards out. After a quick three-and-out and short punt by the Raiders, Walton, on the first play, took off for the end zone from 44 yards out to make it 21-0, and the Tornadoes started breathing a little easier.
“It’s an honor to be a part of something like this, especially since I’ve been around for all 38 of them,” Walton said. “It’s a credit to all of the coaches and players who have come through here and made history tonight. I’m excited about it, but we still have more business ahead of us. We’re going to have to go up there and play Cocoa in their house next week, so we’ll have to be ready to go.”