While basketball state championships have continued to come in bunches over the past half-century at Miami High, a football title has been very elusive.
Unfortunately for the Stingarees and their fans, the wait will go on.
A dream season that put Miami High football back on the map with its first trip to the state semifinals since 1992 ended in frustration Friday night as the Stingarees fell 28-21 to host Atlantic High in Delray Beach.
Miami High’s loss marked the first time since 1990 that no team from Miami-Dade or Broward County made it to the finals in the state’s largest classification.
“It was a blessing to coach these young guys and give them hope and give them an opportunity not just football-wise but spiritually, that’s what my purpose is,” Miami High coach Sedrick Irvin said. “That’s the joy I get out of it, win or lose.”
A victory would have sent Miami High (11-2) to play for the title for the first time since 1965 when it last brought home a state championship.
But the Stingarees let leads slip away three times in the game with Atlantic taking the advantage for good with 52 seconds left when Henry Bryant III dove for the goal line and was ruled to have scored a touchdown from five yards out. Atlantic (12-1) added a two-point conversion moments later.
On Miami High’s final drive, quarterback Isaias Castellon was sacked for a 10-yard loss setting up fourth and 20 at its own 10. A penalty backed the Stings up five more yards.
Castellon hit Johnny Ford for a screen pass that he advanced about 19 yards, coming up short of the first down and sending Atlantic to state for the first time since 1978 where it will face Orlando Dr. Phillips next Saturday at Camping World Stadium at 8 p.m.
Ford, Miami High’s most explosive playmaker all season, ran for 129 yards rushing on 24 carries and scored a 19-yard go-ahead touchdown with 5:13 left in the third quarter.
But Miami High failed to score over its final four drives and couldn’t put the Eagles away.
The Stingarees’ defense, led by Trenod Desrosier, who had three sacks, and Devenson Cadet’s two interceptions and a fumble recovery, forced four turnovers.
But Miami High turned the ball over three times itself, and squandered a chance to take control of the game just before halftime.
Leading 13-7, quarterback Isaias Castellon’s pass over the middle was intercepted by University of Florida commit Corey Gammage and returned 99 yards for a touchdown that helped give Atlantic a 14-13 lead at the half.
The Eagles then scored on the opening kickoff of the second half when Shelley Singletary took a short kick 70 yards to the end zone.
Atlantic took Castellon, who led Miami-Dade County in passing this season, out of his comfort zone throughout the game with pressure. Castellon completed 11 of 30 for 152 yards and an early touchdown to Marcus Fleming, but threw two interceptions — one of which was a screen pass picked off by Alexander Jean Mary deep in Stings territory that set up a 7-yard touchdown run by Bryant in the first quarter.
“We gave them two turnover touchdowns and they had a kickoff return,” Irvin said. “That’s 21 points we gave them. I told them they couldn’t go 80 or 70 yards on us, but they had good returners and we put ourselves in a bad situation.”
Irvin, a former star running back at Miami High in the 1990s, came back to coach his alma mater this season after prior coaching stints in college and at Westminster Christian on the high school level.
Following the game after he spoke to his players and thanked them for all their efforts this season, Irvin spoke about Miami High taking its first steps in returning to contention this season.
“The program’s standards are set,” Irvin said. “Now, the guys that come back know what it takes, the hard work and the commitment you need to put in to get here.”