Booker T. Washington won its 38th consecutive game – a new county record – with its win over Glades Central last week.
It is the longest current active winning streak in the state and ninth-longest in the nation.
To keep it going and keep its chances alive of becoming the first county team to win three consecutive state titles in the playoff era, the nationally-ranked Tornadoes must surpass a huge road test against a very familiar, and motivated, opponent Friday when they travel to play Cocoa High School in a Class 4A state semifinal at 7:30 p.m.
“Cocoa has more firepower on offense this year than any time we’ve faced them before,” Booker T. coach Tim Harris Jr. said. “When you mix that with a tough and aggressive defense with the ability of a high-powered offense it makes for a tough task like we have this week.”
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There was a time Booker T. Washington’s football team couldn’t get past Seffner Armwood in the playoffs.
For three consecutive seasons, frustrating finishes to promising seasons for the Tornadoes came at the hands of their familiar foe.
Booker T. finally got past Armwood in 2007 and won its first state championship.
For Cocoa, Booker T. has become that constant obstacle.
Booker T. (12-0), ranked No. 4 nationally by MaxPreps and USA Today, has defeated Cocoa three consecutive seasons in this round.
In fact, Cocoa had won three consecutive state championships from 2008-2010 until it began playing Booker T. in the postseason.
The Tigers (11-1), whose only loss this season came against out-of-state opponent, Trinity High in Kentucky, have made it their sole focus all season to avenge prior losses and end the state’s longest active winning streak.
Cocoa enters the game with a potent offense led by plenty of players who endured the most recent two lopsided losses that came by a combined score of 90-23.
The Tigers are averaging 407 yards per game led by dual threat sophomore quarterback Bruce Judson (1,912 yards passing, 31 TD, 4 INT, 811 yards and 10 TDs rushing).
Their potent offense is complemented by senior running back Justin Weaver (168 car., 1,366 yards, 17 TDs) and several talented wide receivers.
Senior receiver/defensive back Jamel Dean an Ohio State commitment, has 21 catches for 732 yards and 12 touchdowns).
The defense is anchored by senior defensive end Adrian Johnson (10 sacks, 59 tackles), senior linebacker Marquise Lewis (67 tackles) and talented secondary that features senior Juandarius Dukes, senior Aaron McRoy and junior Chauncey Gardner, who have combined for 10 interceptions this season.
“I look back to when we played them in 2011 they had a tremendous defense and they weren’t even very big,” Harris, Jr. said. “They have so much athleticism on the field. [Judson] is excellent. He can throw the ball with the best of them and running the ball he’s a natural runner much like Treon Harris was for us last year.”
The group will challenge Booker T.’s potent offense that has averaged 43.3 points per game.
Senior quarterback Maurice Alexander has thrown for 2,338 yards and 24 touchdowns with only three interceptions.
But Alexander lost one of his best targets a month ago when senior receiver Antonio Callaway tore his meniscus in practice in late October. Callaway was Booker T.’s leading receiver (31 catches for 818 yards and seven touchdowns).
Harris said in recent weeks a few underclassmen including receiver Darius Scott have stepped up and made big plays, something the Tornadoes will need Friday.
Junior running back Mark Walton has also proven himself a valuable part of the offense again this season (165 carries, 1,159 yards, 18 TDs) behind a talented offensive line that Harris says saves its best for big games.
“We have to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,” Harris said. “In all of our big games this year like Central, our o-line has risen to the occasion. We need that kind of performance on Friday night.”
Class 4A state semifinal: Booker T. Washington at Cocoa
Region 4-8A final at Southridge: Killian vs. Columbus
Region 3-8A final: Wellington at Flanagan
Region 4-7A final: Royal Palm Beach at St. Thomas Aquinas
Region 4-6A final: Central at Palm Bay Heritage
Region 4-5A final: Cape Coral Island Coast at American Heritage
All games at 7:30 p.m.