Atlantic books ticket to first state championship since 1978

Courtesy: Sun-Sentinel

Henry Bryant's name will ring out in Atlantic lore for a long time to come.

With 52 seconds left, the sophomore running back scored the game-winning touchdown from 5 yards out to send the Eagles to the state championship for the first time since 1978.

The touchdown capped off an 80-yard scoring drive to give Atlantic the lead for good.

“You don’t want to tackle Henry [Bryant],” said Eagles coach TJ Jackson of his powerful running back. “I said ‘Let’s feed it to him three times [at the end].’ And Henry said, ‘Give it to me and I’ll score.’ And he did.”

Atlantic will face Dr. Phillips on Saturday, Dec. 9 in the Class 8A state championship at Orlando's Camping World Stadium.

Playing in its first state semifinal since 1965, Miami struck first on its opening drive as its running game gashed the Eagles on the ground. Running behind its massive offense line - specifically its right side of 6-foot-7, 290-pound guard Khauron Prospere and 6-foot-4, 290-pound tackle Leonard Lucas Jr., Johnny Ford racked up 44 rushing yards on the Stingarees opening drive. Miami High cashed in on fourth down as Isaias Castellon hit Marcus Fleming for a 5-yard touchdown strike to take a 7-0 lead.

The Eagles absorbed the early hit and struck back thanks to a key defensive play as Alexander Jean-Mary picked off Castellon to set up the Eagles inside the Miami High 10-yard line. Three plays later, bruising running back Henry Bryant powered in for a 5-yard touchdown run to even the score at 7-7 midway through the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Stingarees defense came up with a momentum-changing turnover. Miami High cornerback Devenson Cacket stepped in front of an Antoine Williams pass and returned it 22 yards for a score. The Stingarees missed the extra point, making it a 13-7 game.

Miami High had a chance to take a double-digit lead before half, but Corey Gammage’s 101-yard pick-six completely swung the momentum back toward the Eagles. Atlantic took a 14-13 lead into halftime after connecting on the extra point.

In the second half, Atlantic’s kickoff return came through with a home run play for the second straight week. Shelley Singletary returned the second-half kickoff 70 yards for the score to give the Eagles a 20-13 lead just seven seconds into the half.

After a strip-sack gave the Eagles the ball deep inside Miami High territory, Atlantic had a chance to extend the lead to double-digits but came up just short. On fourth down, Gammage nearly came down with a leaping TD catch in the end zone, but couldn’t hold on.

Miami High took advantage of the missed opportunity on the ensuring drive as Ford knifed through the defense once again. Ford later scored on an 18-yard touchdown run to bring the score within one. The Stingarees lined up for the extra point, but after an Atlantic penalty, they decided to go for two and converted to take a 21-20 lead.

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