Despite its USA Today No. 1 national ranking, some around the country doubted if Booker T. Washington could handle its first opponent Saturday night at Norcross High.
The Tornadoes used their superior overall team speed and skill to give anyone watching all the evidence they needed as they overwhelmed Norcross (Ga.) 55-0 at Blue Devil Stadium in their regular-season opener that was part of ESPN’s High School Kickoff weekend.
“This sends a big statement because only one national scouting report thought we’d win,” senior quarterback Treon Harris said. “We showed we deserved to be No. 1.”
The Tornadoes (1-0) broke the game open in the second quarter by scoring 20 points in a 5-minute 34-second span and shocked the Blue Devils (0-1), who entered the game ranked No. 3 nationally by MaxPreps.
After that, Booker T. made it clear the gap between the teams was much wider than a handful of spots in the polls. The victory was also a dramatic reversal from recent performances by Miami-Dade County teams in Georgia.
“I’m so proud of our student-athletes because this trip truly brought us together,” Booker T. coach Tim “Ice” Harris said. “These guys committed to themselves, and this really worked out because of it.”
Treon Harris led the Tornadoes, throwing five touchdown passes and going 23 for 28 passing for 284 yards. Harris also ran for 65 yards on 10 carries.
Receiver Lamar Parker finished with eight catches for 83 yards and a touchdown, and Terrawn McPhee caught two touchdown passes. Deltron Hopkins caught five passes for 64 yards.
“We had the best experience traveling to Texas last year and know how to deal with it,” Harris said. “It’s part of football.”
Booker T.’s offensive line also stepped up and neutralized Norcross’s vaunted defense that was led by highly recruited defensive end Lorenzo Carter. Senior Jordan Ingraham matched up with Carter and did not allow him a sack.
Booker T.’s defense did a lot more damage.
Leading 7-0 after Harris’ 10-yard touchdown pass to Krondis Larry, the Tornadoes recovered a fumble to set up their next score. Norcross had only one as a team.
Senior defensive end Tevin Evans, who had 1 1/2 sacks in the first half scooped up a handoff that Norcross running back Josh Boyd couldn’t handle giving Booker T. the ball at the Blue Devils’ 25.
Four plays later, Booker T. converted a fourth-and-21 when Harris put the ball right on target to Lamar Parker for a 22-yard touchdown strike.
Two drives later, Brandon Boyd intercepted quarterback A.J. Bush in the second quarter and returned it 33 yards to the Norcross 13-yard line.
One play later, sophomore Mark Walton ran up the middle uncontested for a 13-yard touchdown.
The scoreboard read 27-0 in favor of Booker T. Washington.
And the outcome was decided.
“This was a different environment for our kids because they faced the small-town environment,” Harris said. “Everywhere we went restaurants Dick’s Sporting Goods everything was all Norcross. We talked a lot to the kids to prepare them on how to handle it.”
Booker T.’s special teams also made two huge plays.
Leading 14-0, Booker T.’s James King stripped Myles Autry of the ball on a kickoff return. The ball popped up in the air and was caught by Andre Duncombe, giving him the chance to turn around and return it 15 yards for a touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, the Tornadoes blocked a punt, and LaDarius Crump returned it 10 yards for a touchdown.
Booker T. squashed any chance of a Norcross comeback immediately in the second half by scoring on its first two possessions when Harris found Terrawn McPhee twice in the end zone.
On the first one, McPhee made a great catch in stride in the corner of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown. On the second, McPhee didn’t have a defender anywhere near him when Harris hit him on target in the middle of the end zone to increase Booker T.’s lead to 41-0.
The Tornadoes will rest during a bye next weekend before facing what should be a much tougher challenge in their own backyard.
Booker T. will face Miami-Dade rival Miami Central Sept. 6 at Traz Powell Stadium. The Rockets, who beat Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer on Saturday in a preseason classic, are ranked No. 1 nationally by Rivals.com. Central faces Plantation American Heritage Friday in its regular-season opener.