The mission to restore Miami High football to greatness took another big step Thursday night.
Led by its defense, which forced five turnovers, the Stingarees dominated Palmetto, shutting out the Panthers 28-0 at Tropical Park.
It was Miami High’s first playoff victory since 2000 and the first time in its rich history that it recorded a shutout in the postseason.
Miami High advances to the regional semifinals and will face either Southridge or Belen Jesuit next Friday. As the No. 7 seed in Region 4-8A, the Stingarees would be the visiting team in that game regardless. Southridge faces Belen on Friday at 1 p.m.
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“I just told them to trust the process and good things would start happening,” said Irvin, the former star Miami High running back. “We were going to change the mindset and to think like a champion. You work like a champion and then you play like a champion. We knew we had to have a better effort and attitude than our opponent and that’s what we had out there tonight.”
Senior athlete Johnny Ford set up Miami High’s first touchdown with a 42-yard fake punt run and later caught and ran for a 99-yard touchdown on a perfect pass from quarterback Isaiah Castellon.
The Stingarees (9-1) did the rest on defense by keeping Palmetto from scoring three times in the red zone.
Marcus Barthell put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter with an 80-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Palmetto (8-2), which won its first district title since 1999, was shut out in the playoffs for the first time since 1975.
Ford scored two touchdowns and finished with 75 yards. Castellon completed 12 of 20 passes for 216 yards and threw two touchdown passes.
A major key to Miami High’s success this season has been the development of an offensive line anchored by the starting five of junior tackle Dontae Lucas (6-4, 330 pounds), senior tackle Leonard Lucas (6-4, 290), senior guards Ronaldo Marquina (6-5, 305) and Khauron Prospere (6-7, 290) and senior center Amilcar Cordon (5-11, 260).
The group has anchored an offense that is averaging 367 yards per game and 39.1 points per game.
“A win like this makes us come together and shows us what we can do,” Dontae Lucas said. “We’ve had the mindset that we can win state this year, but this is only going to make us work harder.”