In the end, Booker T. Washington got what it came to get on Friday night.
Taking on one of the toughest schedules in the nation, the Tornadoes probably felt pretty good about an easy one for a change when they scored midway through the third quarter to go up 26-0 on Coral Gables.
But as it turned out, there would be nothing easy about it. Not even close.
That’s because Gables put on a furious “out-of-nowhere” rally that had the Tornadoes clinging for dear life in the final minute before hanging on to preserve a 26-21 win at Tropical Park Stadium.
The victory moved them to 4-3 and, with two more monster opponents the next two weeks in Chaminade-Madonna and Carol City, it was a win that was absolutely essential.
That’s because the Tornadoes who, like all 4A through 1A teams, do not play in a district and must qualify in Region 4 where only four teams make the postseason. They missed the playoffs a year ago and could have been back on the hot seat had they blown this one.
After cutting the BTW lead to five with a touchdown with 1:09 left, Gables recovered the onside kick at midfield. And when quarterback Gerald Williams found Rasaad Sawyer for a 20-yard gain to the Tornado 30, the Gables crowd was going wild.
But a flag came out as Sawyer was called for going out of bounds on his own and then coming back in thus becoming an ineligible receiver.
The 15-yard backup put the Cavs back at their own 35 and Jacorey Brooks intercepted Williams on the next play to preserve the win as a collective sigh of relief came out of the Booker T. sidelines. It also prompted a pretty good tongue-lashing for the players from their head coach after the game.
“First make sure you give Gables some credit because they did a great job of fighting back and not quitting and that’s a credit to those kids and coaches,” Booker T. coach Tim “Ice” Harris said. “That said, we probably got a little lackadaisical with the big lead and did not go out there and do what you’re supposed to do in that situation and close things out.”
Harris and his coaches obviously were quite comfortable with the situation, even pulling starting quarterback Torrey Morrison after he took off for an 11-yard touchdown run to make it 26-0 with 7:38 left in the third.
Morrison had enjoyed a huge night, finishing 22-of-28 for 237 yards and three first-half touchdown passes, two to Theodore Richardson and one to Kevin Butler three seconds before halftime to stake his team to a 19-0 lead at the break.
Even after Gables (4-3) scored on a 7-yard pass from Williams to Sawyer with 10:25 left, it was still a comfortable 26-7 margin for the Tornadoes and backup quarterback Corey Stanley Jr. continued to play.
Even when Williams and Sawyer hooked up again, this time from 31 yards out with 3:07 left to make it 26-14, Booker T. recovered the onside kick and everything appeared fine.
But then running back Antonio Smith fumbled on the first play giving Gables the ball at its own 33. Williams frantically took his team downfield before the Cavs scored on a fancy flaker reverse, touchdown pass from two yards outs, with Sawyer finding Derick Cruse for the score with 1:09 left.
“This was an important win for us tonight because we really needed the points to make sure we make the playoffs because I really don’t see anybody competing with us in 4A,” said Morrison, just a sophomore who transferred from South Dade over the summer. “I guess we kind of relaxed and they came back on us and we can’t allow that to happen.”
Harris added: “He’s doing a good job. Every week Torrey’s getting better and better. Understanding the system from a read standpoint and really picking up defenses because these teams throw a lot at us because of who we are but he’s doing a good job. The biggest thing he’s improved at is his eyes looking downfield. He’s taking off and running a little less and working to find open receivers.”