When he won his first ring here with University School two years ago as a freshman, Bradley Clement honestly believed he might head off to a college a four-time state champion.
“If we all had stayed together at U School, I think we could have won a state title again for sure,” Clement said Friday afternoon, moments after he and his teammates at Plantation American Heritage put the final touches on a 38-0 victory over Tallahassee Godby in the Class 5A state title game at the Citrus Bowl.
“The chemistry was just so strong we would have gotten it done,” Clement continued. “But this still feels great. We all found new brothers, and we’re all having a great time – the guys at St. Thomas Aquinas and the seven of us here. I’m thankful for my new team.”
The Patriots (12-3) became only the second team in Broward County history Friday to win back-to-back state titles. But make no mistake, Heritage probably would not have pulled off what they did this season without the seven former Suns, who came over from U School 12 months ago.
One look at the stat sheet Friday provided all the proof needed. The four leading tacklers for the Patriots: safety Deonta Fair, linebacker Christian Irving, defensive end Brian Burns and Clement. Safety Nick Peart, who finished with two tackles, was honored before the game on the field as a scholar-athlete.
All five were starters last season for the University team that lost to eventual national champion Booker T. Washington in the second round of the 4A state playoffs. They’ve started all year at Heritage.
Friday, those five led the charge for the Patriots, who held Godby’s offense to nine first downs and 179 yards total offense. The Cougars came in averaging 37 points and 265 yards rushing a game.
Fair led the way with seven tackles, two for loss and an interception. Clement (5-11, 225) had seven tackles including four for loss. Irving, who was maybe the most emotional player for Heritage after the game, also had seven tackles.
“What happened last year when Coach [Roger] Harriott left for FAU was tough for everybody,” said Fair, who was at Miramar his sophomore year when University won its only state title. “Everybody was looking at each other like what do we do next? We had to move fast.
“When I came here I fell so in love with it, coach [Mike] Rumph, the whole coaching staff. I never bothered to take that tour at St. Thomas.”
Aquinas is where four other Suns stars – running back Jordan Scarlett, receiver Sam Bruce, defensive lineman Brandon Boyce and safety Rashard Causey – ended up. They were playing for a state title too on Friday.
Harriott? He was on the sideline at the Citrus Bowl, present to support his former Suns who are now Patriots and Raiders. Clement said Harriott gave him some encouragement before the game, reminding him of the U-School mantra: “Finish the job.”
“I’ll always be there for my former kids from a mentor and family standpoint,” Harriott said. “It’s definitely nice to see them rally together and for many to conclude their careers with a state championship. I’m extremely proud of them.”
Three at Heritage aren’t done yet. Burns, Clement and center Louie Berkowitz will be back next year to lead the charge for a three-peat and their own back-to-back state title dreams.
“Coach Harriott taught us well and Coach Rumph has taught us to be even better over here,” Clement said. “We came here to Heritage to finish the mission. And that’s what we did.”