Miami-Dade High Schools

Coral Gables’ defense suffocates Coral Reef

Coral Gables’ defensive players were as happy as anybody on their team after winning a pivotal district game last week against Columbus.

But their goal this week was to get back to completely shutting down opponents.

Sophomore Shakur Cooper, and juniors Emilio Gibbs and Jontavis Testa were just a few that helped the Cavaliers keep Coral Reef out of the end zone and defeat the Barracudas 14-3 on Thursday night at Southridge Stadium in front of approximately 2,500 fans most of which came for Coral Reef’s homecoming celebration.

“We just wanted people to know that last week wasn’t us on defense,” Testa said. “We won, but we had to fix a lot of our mistakes.”

Coral Gables (4-0), ranked 16th in the Miami Herald’s South Florida Top 20 poll, shut out Southridge and Krop for its first two wins, and denied Coral Reef a touchdown Thursday.

The Cavaliers mustered six sacks, of which Cooper had three, and limited Coral Reef (3-2), ranked 19th by The Miami Herald, to only a 36-yard field goal by Christian Jacquemin with less than five minutes to go in the second quarter.

Gables had an answer for that immediately.

Senior Antiwone Johnson caught the ensuing kickoff, found an opening and raced 99 yards for a touchdown to give Gables the lead for good.

Johnson has returned two kickoffs and a punt for touchdowns so far this season.

“There’s players that just line up and know what they’re doing and play football, and then there’s special playmakers,” Coral Gables coach Roger Pollard said. “Antiwone is one of those guys. He’s a weapon you love to have on your team.”

Gables finally got its running game going in the second half as its defense was able to shorten the field and limit Coral Reef to shorter drives — something it couldn’t do in the first half.

Senior Gregory Howell finished with 103 yards on 19 carries after being limited to only seven yards on five carries in the first half.

Senior quarterback Dijion Smith did some damage running the ball as well totaling 95 yards on 11 carries, including a 34-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach.

Coral Reef twice advanced into Gables territory on long drives in the first half, but penalties hurt potential scoring drives.

The Cavaliers had four sacks in the second half and limited Coral Reef quarterback Nico Pierre to 8-of-18 passing for 92 yards. The Barracudas rushed for only 51 yards.

“We just have each other’s back on this defense,” Testa said. “I think we were young last year, but we didn’t really lose anybody. We focused all offseason on turning our weaknesses into strengths.”

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