Miami Booker T. Washington was trying to keep its historic run going.
Cocoa was seeking three years worth of payback.
By 1 yard, the Tornadoes kept things status quo.
Only seconds after Cocoa had scored a touchdown as time expired in regulation, Booker T.’s defense regrouped just enough to stop Tigers quarterback Bruce Judson at the 1-yard line on the ensuing two-point conversion and preserve a 14-12 victory in a Class 4A state semifinal at Tigers Stadium.
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“We knew this was going to be a different game than it had been in the past with Cocoa because they were a lot better this year,” Booker T. coach Tim Harris Jr. said. “They had a lot of motivation. On the last drive, our team stayed together and showed great character.”
Booker T. (13-0), ranked No. 4 in the nation by USA Today and MaxPreps, beat host Cocoa (11-2) for the fourth consecutive season in the semifinals, and will play Jacksonville Bolles also for the fourth year in a row in the Class 4A final at 7 p.m. next Saturday at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
In a game played with the local temperature in the low 50s, Booker T. won its 39th consecutive game and will now try to become the first Miami-Dade County team to win three consecutive state championships in the playoff era.
“This is the kind of team we are right now,” Harris said. “After we gave up a play like we did and then step up seconds after, a lot of kids would lay down and give up an easy walk-in two point conversion. It goes to show we won’t be denied and our goal is to win another state championship next week.”
Trailing 14-6, Cocoa took possession with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and embarked on a methodical, 16-play, 79-yard drive capped when Judson heaved a pass into the end zone and junior Chauncey Gardner brought it down despite being covered by two Booker T. defenders.
On the ensuing two-point try, Judson, who ran for 77 yards and passed for 132, kept the ball. Judson cut to the inside and as he did was tripped up by senior Akeem Jackson, falling near the 1-yard line and ending Cocoa’s upset bid.
“All my four years here, I feel like we always are in these situations so we knew what to expect,” Jackson said. “We have great coaches that prepare us for games like this and we were ready.”
Booker T.’s defense stood tough throughout most of the game, shutting out Cocoa through the first three quarters.
The Tornadoes’ offense had a hard time scoring as well not putting any points on the board until the third quarter when Mark Walton capped a long drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
A mishandled snap on a field-goal attempt ended Booker T.’s best first-half scoring chance.
But behind Walton’s running, the Tornadoes got their offense going in the third. Walton finished with 127 yards on 19 carries.
Senior quarterback and FIU commitment Maurice Alexander completed 19 of 26 passes for 175 yards and threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Vaquan Small to extend Booker T.’s lead to 14-0 with seven seconds left in the third quarter.
But on the ensuing kickoff, Cocoa returned it to midfield and scored its first points when Judson connected with Asante Griffin for an 18-yard touchdown.
Booker T.’s special teams made what proved to be a vital play, however, blocking the extra point.
“We prepared for this kind of thing every year and we try to put our team in as many competitive situations as possible,” Harris said. “We were able to bounce back from some mistakes and play tough and keep the game right where we wanted it all night.”
BOOKER T. 14,
COCOA HIGH 12
BTW-Walton 1 run (Borregales kick)
BTW-Small 15 pass from Alexander (Borregales kick)
COC-Griffin 18 pass from Judson (kick blocked)
COC-Gardner 17 pass from Judson (run failed)
Rushing (att-yds) -- BTW: Taylor 1-(-7), Scott 1-7, Alexander 17-57, Walton 19-127. COC:Judson 15-77, Gardner 1-7, Griffin 4-56, Weaver 12-29.
Passing (comp-att-int, yds)-- BTW: Alexander 19-26-1, 175. COC:Judson 13-21-132-0.
Receiving (rec-yds-TD) -- BTW: Smalls 3-22, Thomas 3-25, Green 2-26, Scott 6-45, Walton 5-47. COC:Gardner 3-34, Griffin 4-31, Troutman 4-42, Dean 2-25.