Two teams that perhaps should’ve squared off in a later round were stuck playing each other in the first round of the high school football playoffs on Thursday night.
The now-coined “Region of Death” — Region 4-4A — which houses five teams that have a legitimate shot to make it to Daytona Beach, kicked off its postseason when No. 4 seed Booker T. Washington took on No. 5 Carol City in a Region 4-4A quarterfinal.
And it was Booker T. that came up with the big plays when needed as the Tornadoes cruised past Carol City 35-14 at Traz Powell Stadium.
Booker T. improved 9-2 and will travel to Gulliver Prep on Nov. 15 to take on the No. 1 seeded Raiders at Gulliver at 3 p.m.
“Just a great job of coming out here tonight and taking care of our business,” BTW associate head coach Ben Hanks said. “Our bye week came last week, so we were able to get some fresh legs and combined with a challenging but not crazy schedule this year, that was the perfect balance to get us ready for what we hope will be a deep playoff run.”
Leading 14-7 at the half, the Tornadoes took complete control of the game in the third quarter. Quarterback Torrey Morrison, who enjoyed a big night by completing 17-of-26 passes for 202 yards and two scores, moved his team 67 yards in just three plays to open the second half, finding Jacorey Brooks for a 17-yard score.
The biggest play of the night, however, came late in the third quarter. With the Chiefs driving and nearing the BTW red zone, defensive end Anthony Hundley smelled a screen pass and raised his arms up to tip a Keyone Jenkins’ pass. He hung on to the ball and lumbered 71 yards to the end zone to make it 27-7 and pretty much end the issue.
“I had a feeling the screen was coming, so I just got my arms as high as they could to try and disrupt the play,” Hundley said. “When I came down with the ball, all I saw was green turf in front of me so I just turned on the jets and took off for the end zone. It’s a great feeling to come out with this win tonight, and now we want to keep it going.”
For Carol City (5-6), it was a frustrating end to a frustrating season as the Chiefs played arguably the toughest schedule in the nation and perhaps were a little too beaten down physically to make a deep playoff run.
“This was big for us tonight,” Morrison said. “We got knocked out in the first round last year [Booker T. was upset by Glades Central 18-16], so there was no way that was going to happen to us again. We’re looking forward to next week.”
After a nondescript first quarter in which neither team threatened the red zone, Carol City jumped out in front, driving 62 yards in six plays. Running back Katravis Geter, who enjoyed a huge night with 178 yards on 24 carries, completed the drive with a 1-yard plunge at the 10:40 mark of the second quarter.
The big play came one play earlier when wide receiver Marcell Williams made a beautiful diving catch of a Jenkins’ pass for a 32-yard gain to the 1.
The Tornadoes had an immediate answer to Carol City’s scoring drive with one of their own, going 55 yards in eight plays, running back Shemar Paul going over from 6 yards out and tying the score at 7.
It looked like the Chiefs were going to move in to take a halftime lead when they reached the BTW 22 with less than two minutes left. But a botched snap from the shotgun that Jenkins couldn’t handle resulted in a fumble recovery by Horacio Johnson at the 27 with 1:39 left in the half. Morrison then drove his team downfield, the big play a 27-yard hookup with Ternard Summerall.
Morrison scrambled 13 yards to the to the 2 before scoring on a quarterback keeper on the next play 14 seconds before halftime and giving the Tornadoes a 14-7 lead at the break.