Honoring Broward’s top athletes and coaches
It was a homecoming for Monsignor Pace coach Mario Perez on Friday night. But it wasn’t the kind of night he was hoping for.
The longtime offensive coordinator at Plantation American Heritage who helped the Patriots win four state titles in a five year span (2013-17) left after last season to take over as the new head man at Pace.
Fittingly, the Spartans’ season-opening contest was a trip to Heritage Field, but Pace found the Patriots to be less than hospitable.
Two touchdowns early in the game and two more in the final minute of the first half gave Heritage a 28-3 halftime lead as the Patriots beat the Spartans 49-10.
“I think the kids might’ve had a little chip on their shoulder because there was a lot of talk in the streets out there about ‘the great demise of American Heritage,’ ” said coach Patrick Surtain. “We kind of had to show them that the big boys were showing up tonight, and take a seat little boys. There was a lot of talk we were going to start 0-5, didn’t have this or that, but at the end of the day we’re one of the best teams in the country, and we went out and proved that tonight and came out with a big victory against a good football team.”
Said Perez: “There really weren’t that many emotions for me tonight. This was a great place for me. I spent a good portion of my life, my kids went to school and graduated from here and this has been a like a second home for me at times, so to me it was an exciting moment to be able to come play tonight. But it was nothing else, just a football game and, obviously, we didn’t do a good job tonight, and we’ll just get back on the bike and get better.”
That Patriots, ranked No. 8 in the Miami Herald South Florida Top 20 poll, opened the game with a perfectly executed 10-play, 78-yard drive, with quarterback Edwin Rhodes finding Vinson Davis for a 4-yard touchdown.
Things got worse very quickly for Pace and better for Heritage when Spartans punter McAllen Augustin mishandled the snap on the next series, setting the Patriots up inside the Pace 10. Two plays later, Rhodes found Mark Fletcher for an 8-yard touchdown and it was 14-0 midway through the first quarter.
After the game settled into a series of punts, with Pace managing a 27-yard field goal thanks to a blocked punt by Shemar Stewart, Heritage blew the game open in the final minute of the first half.
When Rhodes found Oronde Gadsden Jr., with his father and former Dolphin Oronde Sr., an assistant coach watching from the sideline, for a 23-yard score 53 seconds before halftime, it was 21-3.
Which looked to be the halftime score. But in a sequence Perez probably wished he could have back, the Spartans, despite facing second-and-25 from their own 20 with 30 seconds left and no timeouts, tried to throw a swing pass in the right flat.
But Heritage defensive back Earl Little Jr., son of the former Hurricane, picked it off and trotted 20 yards to the end zone to make it 28-3 at the half.
The Pats’ put two quick touchdowns up in the first six minutes of the third, a 45-yard touchdown run by Carlson Joseph and 61-yard scoring toss from Rhodes to Dallas Turner to make it 42-3 and get the running clock going.
“We wanted to come out and make a statement tonight,” said Joseph who finished with 92 yards on eight carries. “We knew we just had to take care of business and set the tempo for the rest of the season.”