Mater Academy and Sunset were each vying to keep their historic seasons alive Saturday night.
A rushing attack that totaled 293 yards helped Mater Academy add another milestone to its improving program.
Led primarily by running back Daniel Doriscar’s 193 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries, and quarterback T.J. Herrington’s 103 total yards, Mater Academy turned a close game into a 42-19 rout over Sunset in a Region 4-7A semifinal at Tropical Park.
Herrington ran for a touchdown and threw for another, and sophomore Darius Brown contributed 69 yards on seven carries as Mater scored 35 unanswered points after falling behind 13-7 in the first quarter.
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“We’re finally healthy after we had gone through a rough stretch the past month,” Mater Academy coach Rocco Casullo said. “When Daniel and Darius get going, watch out. And T.J. managed the game well and made the right reads and excellent passes.”
Mater Academy (10-1) won its second-ever playoff game, advancing to its first regional final. The Lions will next travel to Fort Lauderdale to take on state powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The Raiders, an eight-time state champion, defeated Mater in the first round of the playoffs last season, 57-0, when Casullo coached Aquinas. Casullo said he was looking forward to facing his former school, which he coached to state titles in 2012 and 2014 and was part of three other championships as the team’s defensive coordinator.
Casullo stepped down following Aquinas’ run to the Class 7A state title last season and shortly thereafter was hired by Mater Academy.
“To take this bunch to the regional finals as young as we were starting the year is great,” Casullo said. “The chance to play in a game of that magnitude and against a team like that is going to be interesting.
“Coaching from the other sideline will be different, but I still have a lot of good relationships there with their staff. It’s going to be fun."
With the victory, Mater snapped Sunset’s 10-game winning streak. The Knights (10-2) had never won a playoff game before last week and won the school’s second-ever district championship and first since 2005 when they beat Mater 24-16 on Oct. 30.
On Saturday night, Sunset’s running game got off to a strong start despite the absence of Miami-Dade County’s leading rusher, Javier Zuniga (1,350 yards), who watched the game from the sideline with his left arm in a sling.
Ezekiel Scott ran for 94 yards and a touchdown, and a 51-yard touchdown pass from Michael Cox to Julian Noriega gave Sunset its first-quarter lead.
But Mater adjusted its defense and kept the Knights’ running game in check from the second quarter on. The Lions defense also forced three turnovers, including a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown by Lativious Brini in the first two minutes of the game.
MAT - Brini 32 interception return (Chiquillo kick)
SUN - Scott 22 run (kick failed)
SUN - Noriega 51 pass from Cox (Diez kick)
MAT - Doriscar 65 run (kick blocked)
MAT - FG Chiquillo 22
MAT - Brown 41 pass from Herrington (Chiquillo kick)
MAT - Doriscar 31 run (Chiquillo kick)
MAT - Herrington 32 run (kick blocked)
MAT - Doriscar 3 run (kick blocked)
SUN - Scott 1 run (run failed)
Rushing (att-yds) -- MA: Brini 2-3, Thurston 1-6, Herrington 6-22, Brown 7-69, Doriscar 15-193. SUN: Schenker 1-4, Cox 9-52, Peters 14-85, Scott 16-94.
Passing (comp-att-int, yds)-- MA: Herrington 4-8-0, 81. SUN: Cox 2-11-1, 54.
Receiving (rec-yds-TD) -- MA: Brown 4-81. SUN: Peters 1-3, Noriega 1-51.