Miami-Dade High Schools

South Dade beats Columbus for the first time since 2013 in meeting of 8A contenders

South Dade Buccaneers’ running back Willie Thomas (16) tries to escape Columbus Explorers’ defender during the football game on Fri., Sept. 6, 2019 at Tropical Park Stadium in Miami
South Dade Buccaneers’ running back Willie Thomas (16) tries to escape Columbus Explorers’ defender during the football game on Fri., Sept. 6, 2019 at Tropical Park Stadium in Miami FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Water bottles sprayed on the South Dade sideline at Tropical Park as Columbus’ final pass attempt fell incomplete in Miami. It had been six years since the last time the Buccaneers took down their Class 8A rival and it nearly took all 48 minutes Friday to end the streak.

South Dade, which quickly fell behind by 14 points, rallied back behind its defense. The Buccaneers shut out the Explorers for the final 35:41 and rattled off 21 unanswered to beat Columbus, 21-14, for the first time since 2013.

“It’s been a long time coming for us,” South Dade coach Nate Hudson said.

The Buccaneers’ defensive effort began with an obvious goal: Slow down Henry Parrish. A three-star running back in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, Parrish is one of the most dynamic tailbacks in South Florida with an innate ability to bounce outside, find a hole and dash for field-switch runs. In the first half, Parrish managed only 22 yards. He finished the game with only 98 yards on 16 carries and 59 of those yards came on one run early in the fourth quarter.

By then, the game was tied at 14-14 and Parrish, who is orally committed to the Pittsburgh Panthers, found space down the left sideline. He seemed destined for the end zone before four-star cornerback Jaiden Francois, who is committed to the Miami Hurricanes, dragged him down from behind. The Explorers settled for a field, which South Dade blocked to set up the winning score.

The Buccaneers began their final scoring drive at their own 40-yard line and worked its offense through Chezzy Matthews. The running back ran once for 2 yards, then again for 18. After an incompletion and a penalty, Kelvin Durham wound up for the go-ahead touchdown.

The quarterback, committed to the FCS Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions, hurled a perfect deep ball over the top of the Columbus defense and gently into the hands of wide receiver Trevon Sanders for a 47-yard touchdown.

“He grew up tonight,” Hudson said. “He had been taken a lot in understanding his role, but tonight he took advantage of some of the key reads, some of the big passes, keeping his composure.”

Durham guided all three of South Dade’s touchdowns. His first came at the end a 15-play, 82-yard drive, which spanned nearly eight minutes. The Buccaneers faced a fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line and Durham nearly took a sack before he escaped pressure, scrambled for a bit and found wide reciever Jermaine Hawkins wide open in the left side of the end zone to send South Dade into halftime down 14-7.

His next came just 2:18 into the second half. The Buccaneers started with the ball and quickly moved across midfield on a 42-yard scramble by Durham. Three plays later, the senior hit Sanders, who is committed to the Rhode Island Rams, for a 17-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14-14.

The Explorers only managed three more yards the rest of the way. They finished with only 260 yards of total offense.

“I feel like up front we had a lot of pressure. We dominated,” Francois said. “Even when they jumped up 14-0, we kept our composure.”

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Columbus had two chances to answer after Durham put South Dade ahead with 7:25 to go. The first drive moved across midfield before 26 yards worth of penalties pushed the Explorers as far back as their own 30 and forced a punt.

Their final drive was even more threatening. Columbus took over at its own 30 with 1:32 to play and immediately moved across midfield with a 19-yard completion and 15-yard late hit.

With 44 seconds remaining, the Explorers faced a third-and-4 from the Buccaneers’ 30, so they tried to put the ball in their most productive player’s hand. Parrish took a handoff to the left and South Dade’s defense sniffed it out. Three-star outside linebacker Tyler Johnson, a junior committed to Miami, burst through the line of scrimmage and took down the halfback for an 8-yard loss. A final prayer fell incomplete and South Dade could celebrate like it hadn’t in more than half a decade.

“We know we’ve got a lot of interchangable guys. We know we’ve got a lot of guys that are ‘tweeners, that can play different combinations or positions,” Hudson said. “They were able to come in, lock in and focus. The game plan was supreme.”

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