Maurice Alexander had already been a prolific quarterback in Miami-Dade County for two years.
But as soon as he transferred to Booker T. Washington, he could feel the added pressure of living up to the legacy left behind by star quarterback Treon Harris.
That was until Harris, now the starting quarterback for the University of Florida as a freshman, offered him some advice.
“When I first got here, he talked to me a lot and told me not to worry and taught me a lot about becoming a leader both on and off the field,” said Alexander, who transferred from Homestead High. “I talk to him almost every week since. And I’ve learned to be a smarter quarterback and lead by example.”
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Harris led Booker T. Washington to a pair of state championships and a national championship last season.
By throwing for 2,513 yards and 25 touchdowns with only four interceptions, Alexander has kept the Tornadoes on a history-making course this season that has led them back to Orlando for the fourth consecutive season.
Booker T. (13-0), winners of a county-record 39 games in a row, will take on Jacksonville Bolles (11-2) for the fourth consecutive season at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Class 4A final at the Citrus Bowl.
Booker T. is vying to become the county’s first team to win three consecutive state titles in the playoff era (1963). Bolles owns a state-record 11 state titles but has lost the past two years against Booker T., after rallying to beat the Tornadoes in 2011.
The four consecutive meetings ties a state record in that category, matching Belle Glade Glades Day and Baker, which played four times in a row from 1982-85.
For several Booker T. players and coaches, the experience of playing for a state title has become traditional. But Alexander, an FIU commitment, is anxious to get to Orlando and make his first start in a state final in what will be his final high school game.
“I haven’t even been able to sleep this week,” said Alexander, who threw for a combined 3,485 yards, 39 touchdowns and 18 interceptions his sophomore and junior seasons at Homestead. “I’ve been visualizing plays in my head, but that’s something I usually do every week.”
Alexander hopes to finish his career by leading Booker T. to a 40th consecutive victory, which would make the Tornadoes only the sixth Florida school to ever put together such a long winning streak.
Legendary Bolles coach Charles “Corky” Rogers, who has led the Bulldogs to 10 of their 11 state titles, said Booker T.’s offense hasn’t changed much since transitioning at quarterback from Harris to Alexander.
Booker T. coach Tim Harris Jr. said Alexander and Harris both share a similar intangible quality that has helped them succeed.
“Both are guys that love the big moment,” said Harris Jr., who is in his first year as head coach, succeeding his father, Tim Sr., who became the running backs coach at the University of Miami after last season. “We had some big games early on that we weren’t sure how Maurice was going to respond. But he has shown has that ‘it factor’ you look for in a quarterback where he can make the plays when we needed them the most.
“He’s more of a pure passer than Treon was in high school. But Treon could make more plays with his legs and his ability to buy time in the pocket more than Maurice has right now. It’s hard to compare the two, but both are tremendous athletes.”
Alexander has also run for 365 yards and five touchdowns, complementing an already potent running game that has junior Mark Walton (184 att., 1,286 yards, 19 TD) and a veteran offensive line that has four starters back from last season.
“With Maurice back there, it feels like you have two running threats back there,” Walton said. “He’s improved a lot on how to read defenses and what checks to call at the line.”
Alexander sat out Booker T.’s final regular-season game and its opening round playoff game with a knee injury. He returned for the Tornadoes’ winning streak record-breaking win over Glades Central and has kept the offense clicking.
“I’ve learned not to force the ball and be a smarter quarterback and lead by example.” Alexander said. “I’ve had great coaching here. I’ve become a better runner and decision-maker getting out of the pocket when I’ve needed. The journey this season to get to this point has been great.”
If you go
What: The 52nd annual state football championships.
Where: The Citrus Bowl, 1 Citrus Bowl Place, Orlando.
When: Through Saturday.
Saturday’s schedule – Class 3A: Delray American Heritage vs. Jacksonville Trinity Christian, 1:07; Class 4A: Booker T. Washington vs. Jacksonville Bolles, 7:07.
BOOKER T. (13-0) VS. BOLLES (11-2) AT A GLANCE
Coaches – BTW: Tim Harris, Jr. (1st year, 13-0); BOL: Charles “Corky” Rogers (43rd year, 443-79).
State experience – BTW: 3-1 (won state titles in 2007, 2012, 2013); BOL: 11-4 (State record for state titles).
The road to state – BTW: d. Pembroke Pines Somerset Academy 70-0; Belle Glade Glades Central 35-7; Cocoa 14-12; BOL: d. Umatilla 63-0; Jacksonville Raines 20-13; Madison County 34-15.
Offensive probable starters – BTW: WR Vaquan Smalls (6-3, 170, Sr.); LT Ben Tirolia (6-3, 300, Sr.); LG Ceasar Jimenez (6-2, 265, Sr.); C Clayton Cobb (6-2, 260, Sr.); RG Willa Pierre (6-2, 250, So.); RT Deiontae Lynch (6-3, 280, Sr.); WR Shaquille Green (5-8, 160, Sr.); QB Maurice Alexander (6-0, 175, Sr.); HB Mark Walton (5-10, 180, Jr.); WR Darrius Scott (5-10, 160, Jr.); WR Clevan Thomas, Jr. (6-0, 180, So.); K Jose Borregales (5-10, 155, Jr.); BOL: WR Terrell Moorer (6-0, 191, Sr.); LT Jeremiah Theus (6-5, 280, Sr.); LG Arch Brooke (6-2, 206, Sr.); C Aaron Abel (5-10, 204, Jr.); RG Cody Mercer (6-2, 255, So.); RT Sean Thompson (6-0, 240, Jr.); TE Kevin Ackerman (6-5, 236, Sr.); QB Joe Edden (6-2, 193, Sr.); TB E.J. Porter (6-1, 198, So.); FB Christian Bermudez (6-0, 213, Sr.); FL Dexter Carter, Jr. (6-0, 178, Sr.); K Alex Lucansky (6-0, 190, Sr.).
Defensive probable starters – BTW: LE Andre Duncombe (6-1, 185, Sr.); LT Devonaire Clarington (6-5, 225, Sr.); RT Tyrone Robinson (5-11, 225, Sr.); RE Billy Joseph (6-0, 190, Fr.); SLB James King (6-2, 200, Sr.); MLB Akeem Jackson (5-9, 175, Sr.); NB Terry Jefferson (5-10, 170, Sr.); DB Ocie Rose (6-2, 190, Sr.); CB Davante Davis (6-3, 200, Sr.); CB Catravis Hudson (5-9, 150, Sr.); S Dedrick Mackey (5-10, 160, So.); P Jose Borregales (5-10, 155, Jr.); BOL: LE Paul Dominey (6-3, 225, Sr.); LT Vashon Watson (6-0, 266, So.); RT Jordan Jackson (6-4, 230, Jr.); RE Austin Malone (5-9, 185, Sr.); LB Matthew Stewart (5-11, 188, Sr.); LB Kyle Johnson (6-0, 200, Jr.); DB Ahman Ross (6-0, 188, So.); DB Trenton McGhee (6-0, 202, Sr.); DB Joe King (5-11, 160, Jr.); DB Bryce Newman (5-8, 160, Jr.); S T.J. Floyd (6-0, 185, Jr.); P Alex Lucansky (6-0, 190, Sr.).