Like many of his teammates who suffered through a 1-9 season in 2014, Hialeah senior defensive back Trevon Charles was sick of losing.
So Charles made it a point this year to do anything he could to help the Thoroughbreds return to winning ways.
Charles’ 55-yard interception return with 3:54 left in the game helped Hialeah complete a 29-25 comeback win over Krop at North Miami Stadium that put the Thoroughbreds in the playoffs.
“We had a coaching change and all the guys bought into the process,” said Charles, who also plays running back and wide receiver for the T-Breds. “Nobody liked the feeling last year. All the hard work has paid off.”
Hialeah (4-4, 3-1) erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit that was as large as 15 earlier in the game to return to the postseason after a one-year absence.
“There were a couple of games this season where the pressure was on and we didn’t come through,” Hialeah coach Steve Smith said. “We were taught some valuable lessons. The kids all came together and told themselves they would win and they did.”
Smith, who previously coached at Hialeah nearly a decade ago and followed that with coaching stints at Killian and Doral Academy, returned to the T-Breds this season in the hopes of restoring Hialeah’s status as a contender.
Hialeah overcame some early setbacks, and worked its way up to clinching the runner-up playoff berth in District 13-8A with Thursday’s win. The T-Breds will play the winner of District 14-8A (likely either Columbus or Coral Gables) in the first round of the playoffs in three weeks.
Smith’s team overcame adversity even before the opening whistle.
His offensive line was short two starters, who were serving suspensions after last week’s pregame scuffle in a district game against American.
His team was still able to rattle off 225 rushing yards, led by the tandem of Lynn Bryant and Bobby Clerisier.
Bryant finished with 155 yards on 21 carries and scored a fourth-quarter touchdown with less than six minutes left that cut Krop’s lead to 25-22. The Lightning (4-4, 2-2) appeared to have stopped Hialeah on downs on the previous play, but a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer kept the drive alive.
Charles made the big play on the ensuing drive, snaring an errant throw down the middle of the field and returning it for the score as he got a key block downfield from Clerisier, who finished with two rushing touchdowns.
Krop built a 15-0 lead in the first quarter on two touchdown passes by Matthew Bethel, one to Max Stein for 12 yards and one to Justin Korakakos for 32 yards.
Junior tailback Lawrence Papillon led Krop on the ground with 127 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown in the second quarter that gave the Lightning a 22-8 lead by halftime.
But Clerisier’s two scores — each from 7 yards out — kept Hialeah in the game.
“It’s just been about working every day for these guys,” Smith said. “It wasn’t any individual effort, it was just collectively getting it done. The guys that came in stepped up and did a great job.”