A phone rang somewhere inside Miramar’s huddle following its 20-6 win against McArthur on Friday in Hollywood. As Darrick Carroll headed to the corner of the field where his players were huddled, someone pulled out an iPhone and called A.J. Scott, the man Carroll will be tasked with replacing for the remainder of the season.
Carroll approached his team and told them he only had two things to say: “A.J.” They burst into cheers and broke down the huddle they always do, only with coach A.J. Scott on speaker phone in the middle of it all.
“P-R-I-D-E!” they spelled. “Pride! Pride! Pride!” they chanted as Scott, who was suspended for the remainder of the season earlier this week, could listen to it all.
“This whole week has been wild,” Patriots free safety Brian Balom said. “Everything we did we want to share with Coach A.J.”
Miramar (3-3) played perhaps the biggest game of the season Friday against the district rival Mustangs (2-2) without Scott. The Patriots played it for him. The defense, which Scott coached as defensive coordinator before taking over as coach in 2017, swarmed McArthur and forced five turnovers.
Defensive backs Myles Harden and Josiah Ganues both grabbed interceptions, and defensive tackle Clifford David Massenat returned another for a touchdown just before halftime to send Miramar into the break with a 20-0 lead. All 20 of the Patriots’ points came off turnovers.
“From springtime to summer, he built the system,” said Balom, who orally committed to the Miami Hurricanes on Wednesday, “so even though he’s not here right now his presence is here in the system.”
The suspension, which will last three months, stems from an incident last Friday against St. Thomas Aquinas. Scott was upset at a call, took a timeout and approached the official on the field. Scott was ejected and initially the FHSAA handed him a yearlong suspension before Miramar appealed it down to three months. The Patriots are adamant the suspension was unjust. A video circulated on Twitter of the incident is inconclusive at worst.
On Monday, Scott’s players knew something was happening. After practice Tuesday in Miramar, the coach broke the news. He told them he wouldn’t be able to coach them the rest of the year. The Patriots would have to rally around the system Scott has implemented. A dead silent crowd of players decided they would rally around him.
“To be honest, it really hurt. It hurt because of the type of coach Coach A.J. is,” Balom said. “What they’re trying to portray him is, that’s not his personality. I see him as a father away from home. The little jokes he cracks in practice, they can make your day.”
Carroll found out Wednesday he would be the interim for the rest of the year. He had never coached before, so he didn’t try to do anything too crazy. He ran practice Wednesday like Miramar would any other day and didn’t notice anything different.
By the end of practice, he knew the Patriots would be fine.
“When Wednesday practice went like it normally goes,” Carroll said, “I said we were going to be good.”
It probably helped Miramar was facing McArthur.
The Patriots and Broncos are longtime rivals, and the two presumed favorites in District 15-7A. The winner Friday would have the inside track on earning a guaranteed playoff spot.
“You don’t need much of a pep talk,” Carroll said.
Miramar forced a three-and-out to start and drove all the way to McArthur’s 22-yard line before throwing an interception. It didn’t matter. The Patriots forced another three-and-out and then recovered a fumble to set up a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dewrell Murdock to defensive tackle Joel Ramsey, who was lined up as a tight end. The Mustangs picked up their first two first downs on the next drive before throwing another interception in the end zone. A possession later, McArthur threw another interception and athlete Samari Wilson busted a 26-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 with 1:22 left in the half.
Instead of going into halftime down 13-0, the Mustangs tried to answer and threw another interception, this time run 40 yards back to the end zone by Massenat. McArthur didn’t score until Ruben Hyppolite, an outside linebacker committed to the Maryland Terrapins, scored on a Wildcat run from the 2-yard line with 8:31 left. Miramar could milk the clock the rest of the way.
Carroll walked off the field and just about every Patriots fan or administrator he should at him about his perfect 1-0 record. “You know you still have to come to work tomorrow?” one person joked. He was just happy to get a win for Scott, a friend on and off the field.
“He’s been the backbone of those kids day in and day out throughout the summer, all season, everything,” Carroll said. “Once they realized that we were going to fight through it adult-wise, I think they said, You know what? It can’t be any harder than it was already.”