A Southwest High trainer was handing out Cuban coffee to the team’s coaches Saturday morning.
After waiting an extra day and having to wake up early to play its crucial district game against Coral Reef, they didn’t mind the energy boost.
Their players did just fine without it.
Senior James Barnes’ three touchdowns in the fourth quarter propelled Southwest to a 24-0 shutout of Coral Reef on Saturday morning at Traz Powell Stadium. The game was postponed Friday because of poor field conditions caused by inclement weather at Southridge High — the game’s original site.
Following back-to-back losses, the first being the more costly against district frontrunner Belen, the Eagles (5-2, 2-1 in district) knew they had to beat Coral Reef (2-5, 2-1) to realistically keep their playoff hopes in District 15-8A alive.
With two district games remaining for every team in the division, Southwest moves into a second-place tie with Coral Reef and Braddock (4-3, 2-1), which the Eagles play Oct. 31. The three teams trail Belen (4-3, 3-0) by one game.
“I told the guys [Saturday], it was do or die,” Southwest coach Tim Neal said. “If we would have lost this game, we were not going to the playoffs and we’re used to consistently making the playoffs.”
Barnes, a four-year player for the Eagles, got most of the team’s carries during three quarters of mostly offensive futility.
But then Barnes busted loose in the final period, catching a touchdown pass, running for another and finishing the game with a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Barnes has made the playoffs every year of high school playing for Southwest, and finished with 92 yards combined rushing and receiving.
“As a senior I had to come out and show out for my team,” Barnes said. “Since my freshman year I’ve been playing on both sides of the ball. I’m just using that experience mentally and physically and showing I can play.”
Southwest broke the scoreless stalemate after Antonio Garcia’s 29-yard field goal capped a drive that began after Amir Rivera recovered a fumble near midfield for the Eagles. Garcia played a huge role in helping Southwest maintain good field position in the first half at one point netting 65 yards on a punt to pin the Barracudas deep in their own territory.
Southwest’s defense allowed only 108 yards and allowed Coral Reef only one push into the Eagles’ red zone, which ended with a missed field-goal attempt.