Better said by Patriots head coach Pat Surtain: “We knew the exact day we had to play [Miami Northwestern], we wanted that challenge. We didn’t want any other team, we wanted the West.”
Indeed they did, hosting the three-time defending state champions in Max Edwards’ Bulls Friday night in a Class 5A quarterfinal showdown. It was the first time they’d matched up since American Heritage suffered a devastating 23-20 loss to Miami Northwestern last year in the Class 5A regional finals.
Surtain and his squad were ready to not let it slip past them again.
“Being at a school like this, going 11-2 is great for some schools, but not us,” Surtain said on Heritage’s 2019 campaign. “We hang banners around here. We haven’t been able to do that for the past two years.”
Here are five takes from Plantation American Heritage’s (7-2) 12-3 victory over Miami Northwestern (3-2):
1.) Defense does the job for the Patriots, while the offense keeps things safe.
In a tale of two defensive powerhouses, it was the Patriots who edged the Bulls, thanks to a number of plays that change the course of the game.
Heritage’s defense opened the game strong, forcing an abrupt stop to the Bulls’ first drive, which led to a punt. On their second possession, Northwestern was able to get to the Patriots- one-yard-line, before two consecutive false start calls and a sack by sophomore David Vadala ultimately forced a field-goal.
The Patriots had the use of penalty calls and a red-zone interception by junior Jacolby Spells to their advantage, keeping the score at 3-0 entering halftime.
That’s when a mix of the offense and defense came into effect for the Patriots.
“Going into the half, we vowed to run the ball. We knew we had to run the ball against this team. They have a terrific secondary, it’s hard to pass on those guys. Plus, they got some pass rushers, so we wanted to pound them, that was our game plan.”
Sophomore running back Mark Fletcher led the way with 104 yards on 17 carries. Along with him, senior Vinson Davis added 51 yards on five carries and sophomore signal-caller Blake Murphy had 45 yards and a one-yard touchdown to put Heritage up 6-3.
For the defense, they managed to repeatedly pressure quarterback Taron Dickens in the pocket. His second turnover of the evening came after Marvin Jones Jr. got a strip-sack that was picked up by James Williams. That put Heritage in scoring range, leading to a Chris Mason field goal and a 9-3 lead.
Linebacker Jaeden Kinlock garnered an interception on the ensuing possession, resulting in another ruined drive for the Bulls. After Davis led Heritage to another field-goal and a 12-3 lead, Dickens miscalculated a throw that ended in the hands of Earl Little Jr.
“[The defense] has been doing that the whole year,” Surtian said. “We have some ballers over here, every single last one of them played their hearts out. I’m so proud of these kids, but it doesn’t stop here.”
The Patriots ended up milking the remainder of the clock. They concluded the game with zero turnovers, too, a factor that helped them come out victorious.
2.) Vinson Davis steps up when it matters most.
With the ball spotted at the one-yard-line, starting quarterback Blake Murphy used a quick sneak play to gain short yardage and prevent a safety. However, he ended up getting hurt, forcing senior athlete Vinson Davis to come in late.
The speed and agility of the 5-foot-9 Davis was too much for the Bulls to handle, as he rushed his way into field-goal territory. Kicker Chris Mason ended up nailing the kick, which made it a two-possession game with 2:31 left in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a dog,” Surtain said on Davis. “People look at his measurables, his height and all that. He’s a football player. People slept on that kid, I’m glad he’s on our team.”
3.) ATH Jacolby Spells deserving of noteworthy recognition.
Listed as a four-star athlete by 247Sports, junior Jacolby Spells was tasked with taking on University of Miami commit Romello Brinson all night long. In the end, he did a miraculous job.
Brinson was partially invisible Friday, catching just two passes all night long for no significant gain in yards. With offers from programs like Auburn and Arizona State, Spells let Brinson know of him all night long, even calling out Miami coach Manny Diaz at post-game for ‘locking up’ his top receiver.
4.) Kamren Kinchens, Bulls secondary was a force to be reckoned with.
Coach Edwards chose to line up Miami commit and Bulls safety Kamren Kinchens at center field all night long, a move that made things extremely difficult for the Patriots. Signal-caller Blake Murphy completed just one of his seven passes Friday night, finishing with a quarterback rating of 39.6.
Murphy and the Patriots also head to deal with the pressure of Nebraska commit Patrick Payton, who added a pass deflection to his resume. His pressure set up his teammates for a number of sacks throughout the game.
5.) AH-MNW should be a rivalry for years to come.
The trash talk between players, cheerleaders and fans were livid between the two programs. In reality, a victory in this game presumably gives them a mediocre road ahead en route to a Class 5A state title.
Both teams were aware of when they’d face off. It really came down to a couple crucial defensive stops from Heritage that gave them an advantage.
As it was in years prior, this postseason match will continue to be more than just a game between two teams. It’s a battle of the top teams in Miami-Dade and Broward County, with bragging rights and a chance to advance on the line.
Additionally, it’s a competitive coaching battle between Surtain and Edwards.
Expect more of these showdowns for years to come.