South Dade has long maintained its status as one of the best teams on the southern end of Miami-Dade County.
The Bucs set higher goals this season, and Friday night, put together another performance that showed they are ready to make a serious run for the Class 8A state championship.
Led by a balanced offense that totaled 392 yards, South Dade came back to beat Jackson 28-14 at Curtis Park.
In addition to two district wins, South Dade (7-0), ranked No. 6 in the state in Class 8A, has victories over Columbus, Carol City, American, Varela and Jackson — all of which are in contention to make the playoffs this season.
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South Dade has yet to win a state championship in its history, but has advanced to the regional finals in the state’s largest classification four times in the past nine seasons.
“This is the kind of spotlight we wanted to be under this season,” South Dade coach Nate Hudson said. “We came out a little slow, but ultimately once we locked in, we took care of business.”
Senior quarterback Khalil Render completed 8 of 16 passes for 245 yards, and threw two touchdown passes to help the Bucs (7-0), ranked No. 8 in the Miami Herald’s South Florida Top 20 poll, hand Jackson (3-3) its second consecutive loss.
Junior running back Johnnie Hankins finished with 126 yards on 15 carries and scored two touchdowns to help South Dade erase an early 8-0 deficit.
Hankins ran for a 30-yard score in the first quarter that was followed by Render’s 47-yard touchdown connection with C.J. Worton. Hankins capped another drive in the second quarter to give South Dade a 21-8 edge.
Worton and Nathaniel Terry each caught three passes for a combined 181 yards. Terry made a leaping catch to haul in a 37-yard touchdown late in the first half.
“We talked early in the year that we were building momentum behind our running game,” Hudson said. “Our coaches prepare our guys and challenge the kids and they respond.”
Despite gaining 419 total yards, Jackson squandered its chances to come back, fumbling three times inside the South Dade 5-yard line during a scoreless second half.
Trailing 21-14 late in the second quarter, Karoney Oliver was running in for a potential tying score when he fumbled and the ball rolled in and out of the end zone for a touchback.
Early in the third quarter, Kenyatta Griffin lost the ball inside the 5 after Jackson had driven nearly 70 yards to try to cut South Dade’s 28-14 lead.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Jackson quarterback Quinton Flowers, who ran for 104 yards on 13 attempts and threw for 150 yards, broke a long run to the South Dade 1-yard line. On the ensuing play, a bad snap was recovered by South Dade in the end zone for another touchback.