A tough regular season schedule has made the playoffs almost easy for American Heritage.
But a rough first half brought out the character of the Patriots as they turned a 10-7 halftime lead into a 41-7 mauling of Wauchula Hardee at American Heritage Friday night in the Region 4-5A finals.
The Patriots (12-1) will travel next Friday to Lake Wales in the Class 5A state semifinals.
Sony Michel led the Patriots with 18 carries for 237 yards and two touchdowns while Torrance Gibson added 84 yards rushing and a touchdown as well as 129 yards pass and a touchdown.
American Heritage coach Mike Rumph challenged his team at the half as it was clearly allowing a talent inferior team to stick around when the Wildcats (11-2) simply did not belong on the field with the high-octane Patriots.
“I told them I wanted 27 points [in the third quarter]. We put up 24. They really got into it,” Rumph said. “I am just proud to get an opportunity to go to the next level. It was a rough battle. We just have to get some corrections for next week.”
Rumph was tremendously pleased with Michel’s performance.
“He’s been that guy all season, all about the team. Tonight, it was about him. He did a great job for us,” Rumph said.
But what it came down to is that Heritage is very battle tested. The schedule that included the likes of Miami Central, Daytona Beach Mainland, Cardinal Gibbons and Cypress Bay prepared them for playoff games like this.
“It’s all on my O-line. Everything starts off of the O-line. I am dedicating this whole night to the O-line,” Michel said.
For Michel, the difference to him is the athletic ability of this squad in comparison to previous teams.
“There is so much athleticism. We have so many weapons we can use and we are using them right,” Michel said. “Playing teams like Central and teams like that. We went down the line with good teams. Those game prepared us for now.”