Southridge tops Coral Gables 28-10
Southridge's shutout streak stirred up echoes of dominant defenses of years past.
But when that ended Friday afternoon, the Spartans prevailed thanks to another longtime strength - running the ball.
Led by Bentavious Thompson's 104 yards on 14 carries, the Spartans ran for 221 yards and surged past Coral Gables 28-10 at home in the Region 4-8A final.
Southridge (10-2) advanced to its first state semifinal since 1999 and will play at Deerfield Beach next Friday.
The Cavaliers (10-2) made only their third regional finals appearance since 1968.
"We expected this to be a tight game and we told the kids to keep playing, keep fighting," Southridge coach Billy Rolle said. "We knew if we could get just one more touchdown early in the second half we'd be ok."
Southridge had only needed one touchdown, or one score of any kind for that matter, to win its past seven games during which it shut out every opponent.
But that streak ended late in the first quarter after a blocked punt set up Coral Gables at the Spartans' 11-yard line. Southridge's defense kept Gables out of the end zone but the Cavaliers became the first team to score on the Spartans since Sept. 23 when Sebastian Riella booted a 26-yard field goal to cut Southridge's lead to 7-3.
The shutout streak was a school record and was two games short of matching a state record held by several teams.
Southridge has eight shutouts this season overall, which is two short of the state record of 10 set by Bonifay Holmes County in 1965.
"You can't be perfect forever," Rolle said. "But at that point holding them to three was big and we just told the kids worry about winning the game now."
The score would remain 7-3 until Southridge began pulling away in the third first on a great play by senior tight end and University of Florida commit Kemore Gamble.
On a pass over the middle from quarterback Michael Cox, Gamble reached up and made a one-handed catch, broke a tackle and found the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown.
"I kept telling them that play was there," Gamble said. "It was wide open and all I did was reach out and I knew I could catch it."
A couple of drives later, Thompson gave Southridge all the cushion it would need when he broke loose for 69-yard touchdown that put the Spartans a 22-3 lead.
Gables answered with a 5-yard TD run by quarterback Nick Galuppo that followed a 32-yard run by Johnny Ford.
But the Spartans defense, which allowed only 95 total yards, didn't yield much else.
Sophomore Courtney Reese sealed the outcome with a 27-yard touchdown run in the final minute.
"This feels great for my teammates, for the school, for all of us," Gamble said.