Not many offenses can keep up with the high-powered, quick-strike threat at Plantation American Heritage. On Friday night, it was the Patriots’ defense that set the tone early with two scores.
Heritage captured the District 16-5A championship with a 71-24 rout of host Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons at Dr. Bud Tight Field.
Over the past three games, the Patriots (9-1, 3-0) have scored 179 points. Last year, they cruised past the Chiefs 70-19 for district bragging rights.
“We want to keep humble and just continue to get better each week,” said Heritage coach Mike Rumph, whose program won its third district title in a row. “It feels so good, and we work so hard and people don’t see how hard it is to win every week with the turmoil and things going on.”
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The Patriots, riding an eight-game win streak, took a 20-0 lead just 2 minutes 40 seconds into the game on a 47-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Torrance Gibson to sophomore Dredrick Snelson and two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.
Seniors Juwan Dowels and Brandon Vicens picked off Gibbons quarterback Peyton Bender’s first two passes, from 24 yards and 25 yards out, respectively.
The Chiefs (7-2, 2-1), who hoped to win their first district title since 1995, responded with a touchdown drive to cut the deficit to 20-7 on sophomore Deon McIntosh’s 15-yard touchdown run.
Following a missed field-goal attempt by American Heritage, Cardinal Gibbons drove down the field and made it 20-10 on senior John Seiler’s 44-yard field goal.
Gibson answered one play later with an 83-yard touchdown scramble, running from one sideline to the other for a 27-10 first-quarter lead. The Chiefs manufactured a 12-play, 80-yard drive that culminated on Bender’s 30-yard touchdown pass to senior Christian Blake on fourth-and-17.
But Bender, a Washington State commit, exited the game with 6:20 remaining in the half with a fractured collarbone that he sustained on the Patriots’ fourth sack of the game.
Bender did not return and watched from the sidelines with ice on his shoulder and his left arm in a sling. He finished 9 of 18 with 103 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His replacement, sophomore Tyler Monaco, went 11 for 26 with 138 yards and a touchdown (17 yards to senior Trevon Lee).
“It was an awesome season,” Bender said. “I had a lot of fun playing with these guys. I wish I could keep on playing in the playoffs, but it’s unfortunate and it’s football. Injuries happen.”
The Patriots tacked on another two touchdowns on senior Isaiah McKenzie’s 2-yard run and Gibson’s 80-yard strike to senior Sony Michel. By halftime, Gibson had 301 yards passing. Senior kicker Scott Wade capped the first-half scoring at 44-17 with a 29-yarder with four seconds left.
Heritage outscored Gibbons, which committed five turnovers, 27-7 in the second half. Michel and junior Travis Jackson had touchdown runs from 77 yards and 50 yards out, respectively. The Patriots also got two more non-offensive touchdowns — McKenzie’ 94-yard kickoff return and junior Brandon Holiday’s 73-yard fumble return.
“I think my team is finally realizing what we have, especially my quarterback Torrance Gibson,” Rumph said. “He knows his talent and he has some good receivers and he’s putting them in a good position to make plays.”