Battered and beaten up from taking on one of the toughest schedules in the nation, Carol City probably deserved Friday.
Traveling south to Homestead to take on previously unbeaten South Dade, the Chiefs, 3-5 and sitting on the playoff bubble in Region 4-4A, summoned up every bit of energy and grit they had and knocked off the Buccaneers, 33-17, at Orange Bowl Field at Harris Field Park.
Carol City, seeded No. 6 in a Region 4-4A playoff race in which only six teams get in, will now likely move up off the bubble and need only beat American in two weeks to finish 5-5 and secure their berth.
“This was probably a shock to everybody tonight except us,” Carol City coach Joshua Taylor said. “The kids just sucked it up and came out here tonight, got it done and I can’t be more proud of them. It’s been a rough road with the schedule, but these kids, they’re fighters and never dropped their heads. We finally got a few healthy pieces back and are ready to get this thing rolling.”
South Dade, No.4 in the Herald’s Top 20 South Florida poll, fell to 7-1, but the Bucs have bigger fish to fry as they now prepare for their big showdown with Palmetto on Thursday at Harris Field Park to determine the District 16-8A champion.
Leading 14-3 at the half and with the defense playing well, the Chiefs took control of the game by coming out and opening the second half with a eight-play, 70-yard scoring drive. Running back Katravis Geter capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge.
The drive was kept alive thanks to a brilliant, elusive 17-yard scramble by quarterback Keyone Jenkins on third-and-10.
“It’s been a tough and frustrating season, for sure, and a lot of people were down on us,” Jenkins said. “But I had faith in my team, and we all had faith in each other that we could pick ourselves up and get this thing done. We came out here tonight, kept our composure and played with passion.”
South Dade tried to come back, putting together a long scoring drive capped off by a short touchdown run by Kelvin Durham to cut it to 21-9 with 2:11 left in the third quarter, but the Chiefs responded with an impressive 85-yard, 10-play drive, ended when Jenkins found Maxeau Joseph wide open for a 45-yard touchdown with 9:20 left to make it 27-9.
The Bucs kept pushing, scoring with 8:08 left on a 23-yard scoring strike from Durham to Willie Thomas and then got the ball back and another drive going again. They reached Carol City’s 15 before a 32-yard field goal attempt, which would’ve cut the lead to seven, went awry with a bad snap. Six plays later, running back Katravis Geter capped off a big night when he bolted 47 yards for a score with 2:55 left.
“We had all the doubters out there, but we’re a hard working, dedicated team,” said Geter who finished with 101 yards on 13 carries and the touchdown. “The coaches kept motivating us, getting us to stick together, keep our heads up and told us to keep chopping wood. We saw that pay off tonight.”
After falling behind on a South Dade field goal early in the second quarter, the Chiefs found a soft spot in the Bucs defense. That when they started handing the ball off to running back Lemmie Faulk on a series of trap plays up the middle.
A 13-play, 69-yard drive found the end zone as Faulk carried the ball on nine of those plays for 59 yards and scored from 2 yards out to give the Chiefs a 7-3 lead with 4:13 left in the first half.
Carol City wasn’t done.
When a poor exchange from the shotgun resulted in a South Dade fumble, Darius Stokes fell on the loose ball at midfield with 2:42 left. Three plays later, Jenkins dropped back and found Duane Thomas Jr. streaking wide open down the sideline for a 39-yard score and 14-3 halftime lead.