Preseason high school football games don’t count in the record book.
But Friday night’s showdown between five-time state champion Miami Booker T. Washington and two-time state champion Plantation American Heritage will have an effect on at least one thing — the chase for a mythical national championship.
Led by quarterback Daniel Richardson and its relentless, speedy defense, the Tornadoes, ranked eighth by USA Today and 17th in MaxPreps’ composite rankings, created the first big ripple in the national polls with a 27-7 rout of the host Patriots.
Booker T. led just 7-0 at the half. Safety Rishard Dames accounted for the only score when he picked off Heritage quarterback Jason Brown and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown midway though the second quarter.
The Tornadoes then got the offense rolling in the second half.
Running back Craig Nelson capped the opening drive of the second half with a 5-yard touchdown run and Richardson followed it up on the ensuing possession with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Barthell to make it 20-0 with 5:38 to go in the third quarter.
Richardson capped the night with a 34-yard strike to DeAndre Williams early in the fourth quarter to make it 27-0.
Heritage, ranked sixth by USA Today and 12th by MaxPreps, finally got on the scoreboard with 5:27 remaining when Brown found Dontavious Butler on an 8-yard TD pass.
Friday’s game was the first as coach for Heritage’s Patrick Surtain, a former Dolphins Pro Bowl cornerback, who has served as defensive coordinator on two state title times. It also marked the return of coach Tim “Ice” Harris to Booker T.’s sideline.
The architect of a Tornadoes’ program that has gone 105-15 since the start of its first championship season in 2007, Harris, 50, spent the last two seasons at the University of Miami as the team’s running backs coach.
It’s his third stint as coach at Booker T. following time spent at UM. Harris won Booker T.’s first three state titles (2007, 2012, 2013) and has compiled a 99-10 record in eight seasons as coach.
The Tornadoes, a Class 4A powerhouse, are looking to become the first program in state history along with rival and nationally ranked Miami Central (Class 6A) to win five consecutive state titles this season.
A challenging schedule, though, awaits for their national title hopes. Nine-time state champion St. Thomas Aquinas, the nation’s No. 1-ranked team that won its preseason classic 51-0 over Dillard on Thursday, is on tap next Friday at Traz Powell Stadium. Central, Southridge and Columbus follow after that in the regular season.
The Tornadoes have a loaded roster.
Eight seniors are already committed to play for Football Bowl Subdivision programs: defensive end Guy Thomas (Nebraska); defensive backs Dedrick Mackey (Purdue); Rishard Dames (FIU); Richard Dames (FIU); receivers Sharod Johnson (Syracuse) and Deandre Williams (FIU)’ and offensive linemen Kadeem Telfort (Florida) and Willa Pierre (Temple).
That’s not counting talented 6-1, 220-pound junior linebacker Robert Hicks (Auburn commitment) and Richardson, the sophomore quarterback who threw for over 2,700 yards and 33 touchdowns last season as a freshman.
Heritage, meanwhile, has arguably the best high school secondary in the country led by Surtain’s son, Patrick Jr., who is rated a five-star recruit and ranked the second best 2018 recruit in the state by 247Sports.
The Patriots have four seniors committed to college programs: offensive tackle Kai-Leon Herbert (Michigan), defensive back Marco Wilson (Florida), linebacker James Houston (Florida) and Butler (Pittsburgh).
There’s plenty more talented stars still undecided on college including 6-6, 339-pound four-star offensive tackle TJ Slaton, 6-2, 287-pound three star defensive tackle George Ellis and 6-4, 277-pound three-star offensive linemen Robert Hawkins.
The Patriots, who won back-to-back Class 5A state titles in 2013 and 2014, will open their nine-game regular season schedule next Saturday against two-time defending Class 6A state champion Colquitt County in Georgia, a team that finished second nationally last season.
Also featured on the schedule — a Sept. 2 home date against nationally ranked Don Bosco Prep of New Jersey.