Past history of the rivalry between North Miami and North Miami Beach has always said that you throw the records out and get ready for a backyard neighborhood battle.
And that’s exactly what a big North Miami Stadium crowd got on Thursday night as the Pioneers and Chargers went at it like a couple of fighters in the ring.
And when the clock hit zero, it was North Miami still standing as the Pioneers, thanks to a 4-yard Hilton Joseph touchdown run with 41 seconds left, pulled out a 20-16 victory. The win moved North Miami to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the district, tied at the top with Ronald Reagan. NMB fell to 1-4, 1-1.
“A real battle tonight, and it’s not anything we weren’t expecting because we have a lot of respect for Coach [Jeff] Bertani and how hard his kids bring it,” said North Miami coach Ed Williams. “They (NMB) always put a real good product on the field, and like I told my kids, we’ve just got to do what we do, and we made the big plays when it counted the most.”
Trailing 16-14 with less than five minutes left, it looked like the Pioneers had squandered their last chance to score when, on fourth-and-10 from the North Miami 15, a Joseph pass to Tavaris Harrison only netted seven yards and the Chargers took over.
But a long NMB pass on third down was picked off by Delvory Williams, and the Pioneers were back in business at the NMB 44 with 3:18 left.
A pair of pass interference penalties on the Chargers, one by Cedric Wiggins in the end zone when he picked off the pass that would have sealed the win for NMB, set the Pioneers up at the nine with 1:48 left when the lightning detector went off and the game went into a delay.
But when they came back out on the field, North Miami kept grinding and, with a third-and-goal at the four, Joseph found a gap and took off on a read-option and trotted into the end zone untouched.
“To be honest with you, we had something called, but Hilton looked and he said, ‘Coach let’s do this the other way,’ and I said okay,” Williams said.
“He’s our senior leader, knows this offense, and when he’s on the field, he knows what’s going on as well as anybody.”
“They (NMB defense) gave me what I wanted,” said Joseph, who finished the night 9-for-21 for 139 yards (an off night for him). “They had basically played man all game, and we hadn’t run that play all game and knew they wouldn’t be expecting it.
“I was looking for a mismatch and saw the hole open up and went for it.”
North Miami took the lead late in the first quarter when Joseph found Eliot Taylor from 12 yards out, but a botched extra point left the Pioneer lead at 6-0.
A 30-yard kick return and 15-yard personal foul penalty tacked on set the Chargers up at the Pioneer 39, and NMB quickly answered North Miami’s touchdown with their own score when quarterback Tyrek Hepburn found Djmitri Pierre-Louis for an 8-yard touchdown pass. Cedric Wiggins hit Hepburn on a fancy halfback throwback pass to the quarterback for the two-point conversion to put NMB up 8-6.
The Pioneers jumped out in front late in the third quarter when Joseph found Harrison for a 25-yard score. The ensuing two-point conversion made it 14-8. Once again, though, the Chargers had an answer as they put together a 12-play, 77-yard drive with Hepburn hitting Wiggins for a 12-yard touchdown on third-and-goal. Running back Jordan Atkins, who finished the night as the game’s leading rusher with 94 yards on 18 carries ran in the two-point conversion to give NMB a 16-14 lead with 9:16 left.
“This wasn’t anything we weren’t expecting tonight,” Joseph said.
“We knew NMB would come out and play hard, but we were confident we would be able to find a way to come out on top, and we did.”