A.J. Scott couldn’t contain his emotions on Friday night when recalling the day he was asked to return to coach at Miramar High.
It was early February and his mother had just passed away.
"My mom would have been so proud right now," Scott said. "She always thought I should be the coach at Miramar. The day after she passed, I got the phone call to come back."
Scott, a former assistant for seven years at Miramar, watched his players celebrate the school’s biggest football win of this comeback season for the Patriots.
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Miramar 44, St. Thomas Aquinas 27.
That was what the scoreboard read after the Patriots served notice to the entire state that they deserve to be counted among the favorites to win this year’s Class 8A state championship.
Miramar (8-1) hasn’t climbed that mountain since 2009 when it won the school’s lone title under then-coach Damon Cogdell.
The Patriots will have a great opportunity to end their eight-year drought starting next week as it appears they will enter the postseason as the top seed in Region 4-8A.
Aquinas (7-2) entered the game ranked No. 13 nationally by USA Today, and will still likely enter the playoffs as the top seed in Region 4-7A as it chases its fourth consecutive state crown.
When Miramar was at its peak in recent years advancing to state twice in three seasons and producing such talented players as Tracy Howard and Geno Smith, the Patriots frequently went toe-to-toe with national powerhouse St. Thomas.
Miramar even put together a three-game winning streak against the Raiders earlier this decade.
But seldom did the Patriots beat the Raiders by as much or score as much as they did on Friday.
Miramar’s 44 points surpassed the total number of points allowed by Aquinas in its eight previous games this season (42).
And Aquinas hadn’t allowed more than 14 points in a game this year.
“I was part of the three times in a row,” Scott said. “I told the kids believe it can be done. To do something like this, you can’t sleep as a coach. They have a great staff and the kids understood our game plan. They adjusted and hit us in the mouth and then we adjusted and came back.”
Miramar ran the ball at will in the second half led by freshman Katravis Geter, who scored three touchdowns including a pair at the outset of the game to give Miramar an early 13-0 lead.
But its defense led by senior linebacker Jesse Smith created several opportunities that Miramar capitalized on.
Smith’s 45-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the second half gave Miramar a 23-14 lead.
But it was his strip sack of Aquinas quarterback Derek Wingo that resulted in a fumble recovery by sophomore Devon Betty shortly after Miramar took a 30-27 lead that helped the Patriots begin to pull away. On the ensuing play after the turnover, senior Ralph Hughey found an opening and ran 37 yards for a touchdown.
Chad Black’s 75-yard interception return on the next Aquinas drive set up Miramar’s final score – a 1-yard plunge by Geter.
Smith had his emotional celebration with his teammates as they waved the Miramar school flag around their team huddle after the game.
Smith said he wanted to dedicate the game to his father, who he said was in jail.
"For us in general as a team this is a very important win," Smith said. "We had in our minds we were going to make a change. This is for my dad. This is for you. We balled out tonight for you."
▪ Palmer Trinity won its third consecutive Florida Independent Football Conference championship in a row on Friday afternoon with a 35-14 win over Somerset Academy of Pembroke Pines. Junior quarterback Nico Casares completed 13 of 19 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Falcons (7-3). Tyler Farias led all receivers with five catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Palmer’s defense was led by junior Arturo Alvarez who had five tackles and 2 1/2 sacks. Freshman JC Corbo ran for 157 yards on 19 carries.
▪ Miami High 55, North Miami Beach 20: Johnny Ford ran for 124 yards and a touchdown on six carries. Isaias Castellon threw for 285 yards and three touchdown passes on 12 of 18 passing. Antquan Kinsey returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown, recorded a sack and had nine tackles.
▪ Cardinal Gibbons 49, Hollywood Hills 0: Nik Scalzo threw five touchdown passes and completed 17 of 24 passes for 278 yards.
▪ Everglades Prep 48, Pine Crest 34: Demetrius Burns threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns on 18 of 30 attempts and ran for 55 yards and a touchdown to lead the Panthers (5-4). Jalen Walker had two interceptions and Kavon Holmes had 10 tackles and two sacks.
▪ Calvary Christian 47, Coral Springs Charter 14: Robbie Evans ran for 259 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries to lead the Eagles.
▪ North Broward Prep 29, Gulliver 14: Daniel Parker ran for 118 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries to lead the Eagles. Kevin Austin caught five passes for 76 yards and a touchdown.
▪ More scores: American Heritage 37, Coconut Creek 0; Carol City 46, American 0; Norland 19, Mater Academy 0; South Dade 42, Edison 0; Southridge 24, Krop 6; Braddock 40, Varela 0; Homestead 18, Ferguson 3; Miami Beach 14, Keys Gate 6; Port Charlotte 59, Goleman 36, Mourning 12; Westland Hialeah 0; Gulliver 34, Westminster Christian 7; St. Andrews 45, La Salle 35; Western 47, Cooper City 7; Boyd Anderson 38, Piper 0; Naples 70, Piper 0; Nova 55, Pines Charter 0; Cypress Bay 33, Taravella 20; Monarch 21, Coral Glades 0; Northeast 41, Pompano Beach 0; Hallandale 22, McArthur 6; West Broward 42, Everglades 6; Fort Lauderdale 24, Stranahan 19; Coral Springs 48, South Plantation 40; Delray American Heritage 42, Westminster Academy 0.