CLEWISTON – Cocoa High football team survived a scare in the Region 4A-3 championship game on Friday night at Cane Field and earned a shot at redemption in the process.
The Tigers topped host Clewiston 26-21 after getting a huge defensive stop inside their own 10-yard line with 2:45 left to play.
Cocoa (11-1) has now won eight consecutive region championships and will host Miami Booker T. Washington, which has ended Cocoa’s last three seasons in the state semifinals, on Friday in a state semifinal game.
“I’m very proud of our kids,” Cocoa coach John Wilkinson said. “When we went to Kentucky and played Trinity this year, at halftime we were winning 26-14 and they wound up coming back to beat us … I kind of had a flashback to that. That experience helped us.”
“Everything is going to go through Booker T. They are the champs. We are going to enjoy this and then start getting ready for them on Sunday.”
Cocoa capitalized on a huge Clewiston error late in the second quarter to take a 26-14 lead into the halftime break. After sophomore quarterback Bruce Judson’s 1-yard quarterback sneak touchdown with 30 seconds left in the half, Clewiston fumbled the kickoff and Cocoa recovered on the home team’s 23-yard line.
Three plays later, Jamel Dean snagged a 7-yard touchdown pass from Judson that pushed Cocoa’s lead to 12 heading into halftime.
Clewiston battled back in the second half however as it held Cocoa scoreless and nearly took a lead with less than three minutes to play. Clewiston had the ball 2nd-and-2 on the Cocoa 8-yard line with just over three minutes to go but actually lost a yard combined on the next three plays.
That allowed Cocoa to pick up two first downs and run the clock on the undefeated season of Clewiston (11-1).
Production problems early Saturday prevented the publication of football or other high school game results from Friday. They will be reprinted in Sunday’s FLORIDA TODAY.