Heritage falls short against Miami Central

Heritage falls short against Miami Central


Heritage falls short against Miami Central


Quarterback Daeshawn Mills (11) of the Heritage Panthers breaks a tackle and tries to outrun the Miami Central Rockets defense during Friday nights Class 6A regional final prep football game at Heritage High Stadium.

In the end, Miami Central was just too talented.

Despite playing a smart, tough game against one of the top teams in the state, Heritage High simply couldn’t overcome the fact that the Rockets were simply bigger, faster and stronger than they were as defending Class 6A state champion. Miami Central eliminated the Panthers for the second consecutive year in the state quarterfinals, this time by a 20-12 margin.

Still, the result and the feel of the game were marked improvements from last year, when a much more experienced and highly-touted team was shellacked 54-3 in Miami.

“They’re good. That’s why they’re the defending state champs but I thought our kids played pretty well,” said Heritage head coach Mark Ainsley.

Heritage showed right away that this would not be a repeat of last year, as a 41-yard run by quarterback Daeshawn Mills set up a 2-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal by Josh Gaines that put the Panthers up 6-0 early in the second quarter.

The Rockets responded in relatively short order, moving the ball down the field methodically before quarterback Jerrod Thomas found Lenwood Joyner for an 11-yard touchdown pass that put them up 7-6.

Perhaps the one point in the game the Panthers might really want back came late in the second quarter. Heritage recovered a fumble with less than a minute in the half deep in its own territory, but gave it back on the very next play. That set up a 4-yard run two plays later from Anthony Jones that put Miami Central up 13-6.

Heritage was outgained 228 yards to 61 in the first half but was able to hang in the game thanks to some timely stops by its defense.

“Our kids played hard and they really did execute. Our defense was absolutely awesome tonight,” said Ainsley. “… Coach (defensive coordinator Russ) Rothar and the rest of the defensive staff, those guys really stepped up.”

If Jones’ first score didn’t change the feel of the game, his second touchdown, a 30-yard run on fourth-and-6 on the Rockets’ opening drive of the second half did, as it put Miami Central up by a two-score margin at 20-6 that seemed to put the Rockets in control.

But Heritage simply wouldn’t go away. The defense held tough until the offense got going in the fourth when Mills found Gaines in the right corner of the end zone on a fourth-down pass to help bring the Panthers to within 20-12.

Heritage held yet again, forcing a missed field goal that could have iced the game and, following a turnover on downs did so once more, but the offense was unable to tie the game.

Even with the loss, Heritage, a team that returned less starters than it lost in 2014, figures to be one of the teams to watch in 2015.

“You win the district, back-to-back and you’re playing the day after Thanksgiving. There’s a lot of schools that would love to be where we’re at,” Ainsley said. “There’s only two schools in Brevard that were, so we’re proud to be where we were.”


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