Miles Jones sliced the turf with his cleats and dashed for a 73-yard touchdown run, giving American Heritage the decisive score in a 28-21 win against Immokalee Friday in a class 5A state semifinal contest.
“When I saw the opening, I just knew the team was going to be OK,” said Jones, who had 143 yards on 12 carries. “I just knew we were going to make it to states and we were going to be good.”
The Patriots (12-0) struggled with the Indians’ physicality throughout the contest, but were able to put together 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to push their winning streak to 26 consecutive games.
They are now trying to win their fourth state championship in five years.
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Shedro Louis was everywhere in the first half for the previously undefeated Indians (12-1). He had two first-half interceptions and scored a receiving touchdown.
Marcus Lodge opened up the scoring in the first quarter when he got open behind the Indians’ secondary. He waited for a deep heave from Cameron Smith to hit his hands before sprinting to the end zone for a 57-yard touchdown, giving the Patriots a 7-0 edge.
Then the Indians (12-1) unleashed 235-pound Abraham Alce.
Patriots defenders had no chance at stopping the rumbling dynamo of a running back as he ran through anything in his way. Alce’s dominance made Patriots eyes sneak into the backfield, resulting in a big play from Fred Green.
Immokalee tied the game as time expired in the first quarter when Green slipped behind the secondary. He caught a 37-yard pass and broke a few tackles before running in for six. Heritage’s woes continued on the resulting drive. The Patriots fumbled their second snap on the next possession, giving the Indians the ball at their own 35-yard-line.
The Indians took advantage when R.J. Rosales hit Louis with a beautiful over-the-shoulder throw in the back of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown.
Heritage tried to answer back, taking over on a fumble recovery two minutes before the half. But the Patriots gave back the momentum when the Indians’ Louis intercepted his second pass of the first frame.
In the second half, the Patriots went old school with their strategy to adjust to their opponent.
“We pounded them,” Patriots coach Patrick Surtain said. “We said forget the pass. We were going to pound them. We were going to wear them down. That’s what this program was built off of: big offensive lineman and great running backs.”
Smith exploded for the Patriots to start the second stanza. He took a quarterback keeper 62 yards for a score to tie the game at 14-14 at 10:45 in the third quarter.
Alce kept steamrolling through most of the third quarter, as the Indians owned the clock. He capped off a long drive with a five-yard touchdown run to put the Indians up 21-14 at the 10:45 mark in the third quarter.
“It was just, we were just missing tackles,” Patriots defensive end Andrew Chatfield said. “But when we came to the sideline we had to fix it and talk about what we had to do right. We had to wrap up [Alce’s] legs.”
But Heritage responded again with the ground game, kicking off the fourth quarter with a five-yard touchdown run from Tyler Jones to tie the game again. Miles Jones took the first snap on the Patriots’ next possession long-distance, giving the Patriots a 28-21 advantage just two minutes later.
Chatfield had four sacks in the victory. Jordan Johnson had 92 yards on 18 carries for the unblemished Patriots.
Heritage will battle Baker County or West Florida Tech in the 5A championship game.
“My mindset is beating this team 58 to zip,” Chatfield said. “I don’t want no points.”
AMERICAN HERITAGE 28, IMMOKALEE 21
AH—Marcus Lodge 57 pass from Cameron Smith (Jared Elstein kick good), 8:10 1Q.
I—Fred Green 36 pass from R.J. Rosales (Ellias Cuevas kick), 0:01 1Q
I—Shedro Louis 23 pass from Rosales (Cuevas kick), 9:41 2Q
AH—Smith 62 yard run (Elstein kick), 10:45 3Q
I—Abraham Alce 5 run (Cuevas kick), 1:28 3Q
AH—Tyler Jones 5 run (Elstein kick), 10:09 4Q
AH—Miles Jones 73 run (Elstein kick), 8:40 4Q