The Southridge Spartans weren’t scared.
Perhaps they should have been.
About an hour before the kickoff of Friday’s Class 8A regional semifinal at Harris Field, Spartans players tried to intimidate the South Dade Bucs, sing-song chanting “Southridge, Southridge” until they were a few inches away from their rivals.
The ploy did not work.
For the second time this year, South Dade defeated Southridge, this time eliminating the Spartans 21-13 to advance to next week’s regional finals against Columbus. That game will also be held at Harris Field..
South Dade (10-1) had routed Southridge 38-0 on Oct. 2, but the Spartans (7-5) had rattled off six consecutive wins since then, a winning streak that obviously had them hyped.
But a pair of long second-quarter touchdowns by the Bucs broke open a scoreless game. Receiver James Wiggins caught a short pass from Darnell Durham and turned it into a 65-yard play, and running back Jawon Hamilton burst through the middle for an 80-yard run. It was the first of two Hamilton touchdowns.
“They’ve been doing it all year,” South Dade coach Nate Hudson said of Wiggins, a Miami Hurricanes recruit who is primarily a cornerback, and Hamilton, an FIU recruit. “This is what we expect of them.”
The Spartans closed the deficit to 14-7 with 2:53 left in the third quarter on a 3-run yard by quarterback Jerry Drakar. That drive was set up by a 35-yard screen pass to running back Cliff Smith.
Southridge appeared poised to tie the score when it started a drive at the South Dade 46 with 5:31 left in the game. But on the first play of the drive, Southridge botched a handoff from Drakar to Smith, resulting in a fumble recovered by the Bucs’ Bernard Hudson.
The Bucs capitalized on the mistake, scoring on a 20-yard run by Hamilton to go up 21-7. Hamilton finished with 137 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
Southridge got a rather meaningless touchdown with two seconds left to account for the final score.
“We were able to prevail, but there are things we need to work on,” Hudson said.
Southridge had a couple earlier opportunities — including a first-and-goal at the South Dade 5 — fizzle out. Southridge actually went backward on those drives, resulting in a pair of missed field goals by Juan Gonzalez from 37 and 35 yards.
The game was not quite as intense as the pregame bravado, but there is no denying that these are two schools with deep roots in the southern half of Miami Dade County.
Both programs have won state titles — Southridge in its glory years of 1991 and 1993 under coach Don Soldinger, and South Dade in 2013 under Hudson.
Yet, despite the rich histories of both programs, the schools have only met three times in the playoffs, and South Dade has won each time. Before Friday’s win, the Bucs prevailed 25-23 in 2009 and 47-27 in 2010.
As for the pregame chirping, Durham, who is South Dade’s quarterback, brushed it off.
“I thought it was funny,” he said. “It’s a rivalry game — I knew they were going to do something.”
SD - Wiggins 65 catch from Durham (Sanchez kick)
SD - Hamilton 80 run (Sanchez kick)
SR - Drakar 3 run (Gonzalez kick)
SD - Hamilton 20 run (Sanchez kick)
SR - Smith 12 pass from Drakar (pass failed)
Rushing (att-yds) -- SR: Drakar 12-(-18), Smith Jr. 12-31. SD: Smith 2-0, Durham 7-1, Wiggins 3-3, Worthen 5-25, Hamilton 10-137.
Passing (comp-att-int, yds)-- SR: Smith Jr. 2-2-0, 23, Drakar 10-30-1, 132. SD: Durham 3-12-0, 75.
Receiving (rec-yds-TD) -- SR: Gamble 2-20, Pinder 3-23, Pope 2-30, Spatcher 3-35, Smith Jr. 2-47. SD: Smith 1-5, Wiggins 2-70.