MIAMI — Despite a better regular season and an experienced core group of returning players, Cocoa still did not have enough to beat Miami Booker T. Washington.
The Tigers came home this time with a 33-14 loss Friday night. It was their ninth consecutive state semifinal appearance but the fifth year in a row the season ended at the hands of the Tornadoes.
Cocoa finished 10-3. BTW earned a spot in next week’s Class 4A state final in Orlando’s Citrus Bowl with an 8-5 record.
Tigers coach John Wilkinson listed some of the accomplishments of his seniors: those state semifinal appearances, district titles and perfect careers against Brevard County opponents, but that was little solace for the three-time state champion on this night.
“We want to win state championships,” he said. “I just wanted to win one for these guys.”
The Tornadoes moved quickly with short passes and a no-huddle offense, scoring the game’s first touchdown in just less than three minutes. Freshman quarterback Daniel Richardson passed for 274 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for a third.
When the Tigers fumbled their first kickoff return, BTW responded quickly and took a 14-0 lead at 7:41 of the first quarter.
The Cocoa offense had not yet touched the ball.
When it did, quarterback Bruce Judson put on a running show. He broke free for a 47-yard touchdown in the second quarter to cut the Cocoa deficit to seven. After the Tornadoes added a field goal, he ran for 18, 17 and 20 yards to set up a 5-yard Timmy Pratt touchdown.
That brought Cocoa to within three midway through the second quarter, and the Tigers’ defense held the Tornadoes out of the end zone at the 1-yard line. Washington settled for a field goal and a 20-14 lead at intermission.
Although the Tigers took the second-half kickoff, they punted on their first two possessions and eventually gave up two more scores.
BTW coach Earl Tillman Jr. said, despite its five losses, his team focused on just winning each next game once it clinched a playoff spot.
“We’ve been doing a great job with that,” he said. “Once the playoffs started, your record doesn’t matter. That’s all we’ve been telling the players.”
Washington had eliminated the Tigers from the playoffs the past four seasons, though last year’s game had come down to a missed Cocoa 2-point run that would have sent it to overtime. The Tornadoes won 14-12 and went on to win their third straight title.
Cocoa’s last state final appearance came in 2010, when the Tigers won their third, defeating Glades Central 14-13.
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Booker T. Washington 33, Cocoa 14
Cocoa 0 14 0 0 — 14
BT Washington 14 6 6 7 — 33
HOW THEY SCORED
W — Daniel Richardson 12 run (Jose Borregales kick), 9:02.
W — Raymond Flanders 20 pass from Richardson (Borregales kick), 7:41.
C — Judson 47 run (Petruzello kick), 9:33.
W — Borregales 30 FG, 6:17.
C — Timmy Pratt 5 run (Petruzello kick), 4:08.
W — Borregales 25 FG, 0:00.
W — Darrius Scott 27 pass from Richardson (kick failed), 8:39.
W — Craig Nelson 2 run (Borregales kick), 3:49
Rushing: C — Judson 14-75, Pratt 10-41, Gardner 3-26, Hunter Stewart 2-16; W — elson 20-84, Richardson 7-15, Trawone Johnson 1-4, Corey Hammett 2-4.
Passing: C — Judson 5-10-2 29; W — ichardson 26-38-0 274.
Receiving: C — Juwan Armstrong 3-18, Zach Armour 1-7, Javon Spencer 1-4; W — mond Flanders 10-95, Nelson 5-27, Johnson 4-45, Darrius Scott 4-46, Thornton 2-52, Gustavious Dames 1-9.
Records: Cocoa (10-3), BT. Washington (8-5).