South Dade coach Nate Hudson knows it will take some time for his team to become an experienced unit like the one that brought home the school’s first state football championship in 2013.
The Bucs got a little closer Thursday night at Traz Powell Stadium.
A gutsy performance by its defense and senior quarterback P.J. Coats lifted South Dade to a 13-12 comeback victory over Carol City in overtime.
Trailing 12-6 and facing fourth down from the 2-yard line on its overtime possession, Coats swept to his right, leaped and was spun around in mid-air, landing across the goal for the tying touchdown.
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“We wanted to get [Coats] out in space and use his running style,” Hudson said. “It was a simple bootleg with the option to throw a pass, but he used his body weight to his advantage to get in the end zone.”
Moments later, sophomore kicker Marc Sanchez, who made two field goals earlier, including a game-tying 32-yarder with 1:34 left in regulation, booted through the winning extra point.
South Dade (1-1), the defending Class 8A state champions, bounced back from a difficult and much-different 45-34 loss last week to Columbus in its season opener.
Carol City (0-2) absorbed its second close defeat in as many weeks and faces reigning national champion Booker T. Washington next week.
“This is a huge win for us because losing last week hurt,” Hudson said. “We’re young in certain areas, but we won’t use that as an excuse.”
Carol City’s one consistent positive throughout the game was the running of senior Ronneldon Ellington, who finished with 147 yards on 24 carries and broke a 50-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter to give Carol City a 6-0 lead.
But South Dade’s special teams recorded the first of two blocked extra points.
The second would prove to be the difference-maker in overtime as the Bucs prevented Carol City from taking a seven-point lead after Leon Brown scored a 10-yard touchdown on a sweep to his left.
Aside from Ellington, South Dade’s defense limited Carol City to minus-6 yards rushing and only 49 yards passing. James Wiggins recorded a key interception with 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter after Carol City had advanced to midfield.
Wyatt Swanson and Joe Suarez each had key plays for South Dade with a pass breakup and a sack, respectively, in the fourth quarter.
“We’re still a work in progress, and we’re trying to find our identity,” Hudson said. “But defense is the DNA of this team. We knew we had things we needed to work on after last week, but the defense really had a lot to make up for, and they did that.”