FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – For three years, Miami’s Booker T. Washington has been one of the baddest teams in the nation, not large in number … but not scared of anything.
But, sometimes, there are limits to one’s feeling of invincibility.
Sometimes, a team runs into a brick wall … or into Nick Bosa, which is virtually the same thing.
That’s exactly what happened Friday night, when Bosa and the host St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders ended BTW’s 41-game win streak, which had been the sixth-longest active run in the nation.
BTW went down with a thud, 35-3, and the rout witnessed by an estimated 6,500 fans and an ESPN audience started early.
On BTW’s first offensive play, Bosa did his best J.J. Watt impersonation, shedding his blocker and crashing into a helpless Tornadoes running back, handing him a 3-yard loss and likely a few bruises in the process.
For the uninitiated, it was a great way for Bosa, an Ohio State recruit, to introduce himself to viewers across the country.
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For BTW, it was a sign that even if its spirit was willing, the Tornadoes simply didn’t have anyone big enough, strong enough or quick enough to stay in front of the 6-4, 265-pound Bosa.
“To have a guy like Bosa – just looking at him you are afraid,” said Aquinas quarterback Jake Allen, a Florida recruit. “But once you start playing against him, you are even more afraid.”
Speaking of scary, Bosa exited the game in the fourth quarter, suffering an apparent injury. But it turned out to be just cramps in his calf and hamstring muscles.
“I have to get used to the speed of the game again,” Bosa said, referring to the fact that this was the season opener.
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After Bosa came off the field, trainers tried to put him on a massage table, but it broke under the weight of Aquinas’ man of steel.
So, in order to work on his calf and hamstring muscles, they had Bosa lie face-first on the ground under the theory that not even Bosa could break the earth.
But it wasn’t just Bosa. Other Raiders did damage, too:
* Running back Devonta’e Henry-Cole rushed 25 times for 121 yards and one touchdown. He had 79 yards in the first half to help give Aquinas a 21-0 lead.
* Sophomore cornerback Asante Samuel, son of the former NFL defensive back who goes by the same name, had two of Aquinas’ five interceptions, four of which led to touchdowns.
* Allen, making his Aquinas debut, completed 17 of 25 passes for 259 yards and four touchdown passes, two of them to Miami Hurricanes recruit Sam Bruce.
* BTW didn’t have anyone who could stay with Bruce, who caught three passes for 63 yards, ran three times for 28 yards and delighted in the big victory. Bruce was among those enjoying the back and forth between the teams this week. He even changed his Twitter page to reflect that his name was Booker T.
“Like money,” Bruce said when asked what it felt like to end BTW’s streak, “like a good meal.”
That kind of makes sense – a good meal and money are both excellent things, and Aquinas is indeed an excellent team.
Just how good remains to be seen. The Raiders, under new coach Roger Harriott, are ranked fifth in USA TODAY High School Sports’ Super 25, but they are striving for even more than that.
Allen answered “of course” when asked if finishing No. 1 is a team goal.
“A national championship is a mythical creature,” Allen said. “We want to win states (for the fourth time in the past six years), but nationals are in the back of our heads.”
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Allen revealed that Aquinas went to the BTW-North Marion Citra game in Miami last week. Even though it was only an exhibition game, Aquinas was rooting for BTW to win.
“We wanted to be the ones who ended that streak,” Allen said. “I know how much hard work went into that streak. We wanted Booker T. to win. We wanted to be the ones to take it from them.”
Aquinas, the 2014 Class 7A state champs, kept BTW off the scoreboard until a 39-yard field goal with 3:51 left in the third quarter cut the Raiders’ lead to 21-3.
The Raiders were so dominant that they overcame a second-and -43 predicament in the second quarter. Two plays later, they were in the end zone, getting 25 yards on a screen to Henry-Cole and a 30-yard TD pass to Dominic Thieman.
BTW’s Gus James dropped a would-be touchdown pass in the end zone that could have cut the Raiders’ lead to 14-7 in the second quarter.
But even had they made that play, it’s difficult to conjure a way that the Tornadoes could have pulled the upset given the mismatches evident all over the field.
BTW players and coaches blamed the turnovers for the demise of their streak, which is a record in Miami Dade County.
But now that the run is over, at least one BTW assistant coach had the following message to an Aquinas counterpart: “You might as well win nationals now.”
The Raiders, winners of 14 straight, intend to do just that.