Five overtimes, 55 points and the end of a five-year drought between victories against your hated rivals.
The No. 5 was everywhere Monday night at Tropical Park, and pivotal in Miami High’s 55-48 victory over Coral Gables.
Senior Johnny Ford, who wears No. 5 for the Stingarees, ran for 85 yards on 15 carries. He also played an instrumental role in five touchdowns for Miami High, which evened its District 14-8A record at 1-1 five nights after losing a 21-20 heartbreaker to Columbus.
“He’s just a kid that has ‘the it’,” Stingarees coach Sedrick Irvin said of Ford, who left Coral Gables last season after coach Roger Pollard stepped down.
“If that kid was 5-11, he’d probably be a top five running back in the country – because he can do it all. If he keeps his head on right and just keeps working and being pissed off because so many schools are overlooking him, he’ll easily make it and continue to make big plays.”
Ford (5-8, 165) made lots of those Monday. He returned a kickoff 82 yards late in the first half and it helped setup a 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Isaias Castellon to William Santiago that trimmed Coral Gables’ lead to 17-13 at the break.
Ford then scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 16-yard run before the Cavaliers (2-3, 1-1 in District 14-8A) sent the game to overtime tied at 20 on a 34-yard field goal by kicker Sebastian Riella with 3:09 left in regulation.
In overtime, Ford scored the first points of the extra period on a seven-yard run. Then, he hauled in touchdown passes of four and 10-yards in the third and fourth overtimes.
“It feels great just to beat those people because I know they’ve been working hard just like we’ve been working hard,” Ford said. “We came back hungry this game because we knew we were better than that team last week. So we just came to get it this week.”
A 15-yard touchdown pass to Lamont Finnie Jr. – Castellon’s sixth TD of the game – proved to be the difference. The game finally ended when linebacker Leslie Smith rushed in unblocked and sacked Coral Gables quarterback Harrison Easton on fourth and goal from the two.
“The quarterback [faked the handoff] and I just came and drilled him,” Smith said. “It felt so amazing.”
The Stingarees, who have not made the playoffs since 2010, hired Irvin, The Miami Herald’s 1996 Male Athlete of the Year, back in April to help get the football program back on track.
Before last Thursday’s game, Miami High hadn’t scored a touchdown against Columbus since Sept. 23, 2010 and had been outscored by the Explorers 237 to 5 in six straight blowout victories. Coral Gables, meanwhile, had won four in a row against Miami High by a combined score of 130 to 12.
Irvin, though, said it wouldn’t take long to end the run of misery against Gables and Columbus – and the Stings nearly delivered wins against both teams in the last week.
Irvin lamented what he says was a questionable penalty call on his kicker, who was flagged against Columbus for not having his mouth piece fully in his mouth on an extra point late in the game. The ensuing kick was blocked and Columbus hung on for a one-point win.
“To do the things we’ve done within four, five days, my team has perservered,” Irvin said. “We just kept chopping wood, man.”