LANDOVER, Md. — No. 5 DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) and No. 2 Miami (Fla.) Central gingerly tested each other for nearly a half Saturday until Lorenzo Harrison made the play.
With DeMatha leading 3-0 with four minutes to go in the half, Harrison stunned the Rockets by snaring a punt return and running 40 yards to the 1-yard line before Miami Central could tackle him. One play later, Stags quarterback Beau English ran it in and DeMatha was on its way to a 38-14 win. The game was part of the GEICO ESPN High School Kickoff.
“Their defense was playing well, our defense was playing well and somebody had to make a play,” Harrison said. “I think they thought we were just going to let the punt drop.”
The score gave DeMatha a 10-0 lead and a lift just before halftime. The Stags (1-0) came out after the half and scored four unanswered touchdowns until the Rockets (0-1) put up two touchdowns on DeMatha’s second-teamers late in the game.
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“We needed a big play to spark us and we felt that special teams would be something we could take advantage of,” DeMatha coach Elijah Brooks said. “That was just an instinctive play by Lorenzo Harrison and it got us going.”
“It was a short punt and our kids kind of stopped on it and their kid made a head’s up play and our kids relaxed on it and it was a back breaker,” Miami Central coach Roland Smith said. “We were still in the game at that point, but I was disappointed that we didn’t respond in the second half.”
English had his hand in three other scores, completing a 20-yard touchdown pass to Kellon Taylor and a 21-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Robertson and running 38 yards for another touchdown. He had to play most of the day without his top receiver, Darryl Turner Jr., who injured his right ankle following his third catch, a 39-yard reception.
“They have a great defense,” said English, who had more than 200 yards of total offense. “Even though the score says it wasn’t that close, they are a great team. Everything we got, we had to earn it. I think they’re a great team, but we are a great team too. We got some things clicking today and we got it going. When this team starts clicking, we’re pretty scary too.”
DeMatha’s defense never allowed the Rockets to get untracked. Besides the score set up by Harrison’s punt return, the Stags went up 38-0 early in the fourth quarter when Austin Fontaine blocked Jordan Naderman’s attempted 26-yard field goal and Tino Ellis scooped up the block and ran 69 yards for a touchdown.
“Miami Central has a great team, but we felt confident coming into this game,” Brooks said.
Miami Central (0-1) has won three consecutive Florida 6A titles and four of the past 6A state titles. It was the Rockets’ worst loss since they fell 35-3 to Grayson (Loganville, Ga.) in 2012. Miami Central coach Roland Smith said he had to reach to remember when a team he coached was down by so much.
“Maybe the state championship game against Apopka (in 2001) when I was at Miami Northwestern was the last time we were down like this,” Smith said. “We have to learn off of this and we will. We will get it fixed.”