Miami Herald’s Miami-Dade County Athletic Awards
Even without their leader, the Booker T. Washington train kept trudging on Saturday afternoon.
Hosting upstate Class 8A power Apopka at Traz Powell Stadium in the first of a day/night doubleheader as part of the Inaugural South Florida High School Classic, the Tornadoes came away with a 20-14 victory in a preseason kickoff classic for both teams.
The game came just five days after head coach Tim “Ice” Harris held a news conference at Florida Memorial University announcing that he would be moving on immediately as the football program’s head coach.
In his place, long-time assistant Ben Hanks was named the associate head coach while Earl Tillman, who coached the team to its last state title in 2015, will serve in an advisory role as well.
“We were just trying to go out there and keep applying what Coach Harris left us,” said Hanks who played for Miami High in the early ’90s and was an All-American defensive back at the University of Florida. “He was here until the last minute, so I just didn’t want to mess up and simply try continue what he has already started. I think we have a good system in place, the same system that was in place after the first time he left, and Coach Tillman took over  and the second time  when his son [Tim Harris Jr.] took over and Coach Tillman again.”
Thanks to a big day from quarterback Torey Morrison, the Tornadoes built up a 20-7 leading going into the fourth quarter but then had to hang on for dear life.
That when the Blue Darters, who defeated Cypress Bay in 2012 and Columbus in 2014 to win 8A state titles, put on a furious rally.
First came a 4-yard touchdown run by Akeem Brown with 7:10 left to cut it to six and then came a last-minute frantic drive that got Apopka down to the BTW 27 with 40 seconds left. But safety Corey Thornton picked off a Jaquan Lowman deep pass down the middle to seal the win for the Tornadoes.
“We have always kept our heads up and fought through adversity, that’s what Coach Ice always taught us,” said Morrison, who finished his day 20-of-29 passing for 197 yards and three touchdowns. “We already know what Coach Ice wants us to do so it’s like we have to stick to what we’ve been doing when he was here. To fight through adversity and show a positive attitude. We’re not going to stop until we make it to state.”
Morrison hooked up with Jacorey Brooks for a 40-yard touchdown in the first quarter to stake BTW to an early 6-0 lead and, after falling behind 7-6, found Ternard Summerall for a 32-yard score right before halftime to make it 14-7 following a successful two-point conversion.
Then came what turned out to be the winning score when he hooked up with Theodore Richardson for a 3-yard toss late in the third quarter.
“I think in the beginning, when it first got out that it was good that the kids heard it from Coach Ice before it got out to the general public,” said Hanks, when asked how the players reacted to the news. “To be honest, some of them were a little salty at first, especially Torey [Morrison] because he really loved Coach Ice and came to play with him but at the same time, Coach Ice staying around for a while after he made the announcement allowed us to smooth over things and made it an easier transition for everyone.”