Killian coach Corey Johnson wanted his team to create its own legacy this season.
After losing a double-digit amount of starters from last year’s regional-finalist squad, things weren’t going so well after five games and a 1-4 record.
A month later, the Cougars accomplished something they had yet to during their coach’s tenure.
Killian players happily jumped and did flips around Harris Field on Friday night after a 24-0 shutout of rival Southridge that coupled with a Coral Reef loss to South Dade secured the District 16-8A championship — the Cougars’ first since 2008.
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The Cougars, who finish the regular season next week against Krop, will host Belen Jesuit in the first round of the playoffs in two weeks. South Dade clinched the runner-up berth and will face Southwest.
“This all came from within because our backs were against the wall a few weeks ago,” Johnson said. “We told them to forget about 2012 at the start of the year. They rose up in classic fashion and have created something for themselves.”
Killian (5-4, 3-1) won its fourth consecutive game, once again using a reliable formula of stingy defense and a ball-control running game.
Jordan Herrera led the Cougars with 104 yards on eight carries and two touchdowns as Killian ran for 232 yards overall.
Killian recorded four sacks, and Trumaine Washington had a late interception to lead the defensive effort.
Johnson credited his team’s ability to close out games as a big factor for the turnaround.
Killian let leads slip away early in the season in losses to North Miami Beach, Coral Reef and Homestead.
But in wins against Coral Gables, Palmetto, South Dade and Southridge, the Cougars have struck first and hung on, outscoring those opponents by a combined score of 122-27.
“We finally got healthy and got guys like Jaquan Johnson back; that was huge,” Johnson said.
“You can’t replace guys like that. The great ones make all the guys around him better, and he’s that type of player.”
Herrera broke a scoreless stalemate in the second quarter Friday when he broke up the middle from 15 yards out.
Late in the third quarter, quarterback Joel Careaga found Anthony Olivencia in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown pass.
“By no means are we done, but I’m so proud of what these guys have done,” Johnson said. “We closed out the district, which is something we haven’t been able to do recently around here.”