No. 5 American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) had to win a three-overtime thriller just to reach Friday night’s Class 5A state semifinal against fellow unbeaten team, Immokalee. So the Patriots know a thing or two about closing out close ballgames.
They needed that knowledge again Friday night, battling back from a pair of 7-point deficits to eventually come away with a hard-fought 28-21 victory.
For the defending 5A-champion Patriots (12-0), who are coached by longtime NFL cornerback Patrick Surtain, Friday night marked their 26th consecutive win and kept their goal of a fourth state title in five years alive.
Two fourth-quarter touchdown runs from Miles Jones keyed the Heritage victory. Jones, a three-star Vanderbilt commit, scored both the tying and winning TDs, with the winning TD coming on an electrifying 73-yard jaunt.
Heritage took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, but watched Immokalee (12-1) score 14 straight points and hold a 14-7 halftime advantage. A 63-yard TD run from quarterback Cameron Smith with 10:45 to go in the third quarter tied the score at 14-14.
That tie held until late in the third quarter, when Immokalee’s Abraham Alce found the end zone from 5 yards out, giving the Indians the 21-14 lead.
In the fourth quarter, it was the Jones show. His score from 5 yards out with 10:09 to play tied the game at 21-21 after the kick. Just two minutes later, the Vanderbilt commit’s long run put the Patriots ahead for good.
American Heritage will look for back-to-back state titles when it faces the winner of Friday night’s Baker County/West Florida Tech game in next Friday’s 5A final in Orlando.