After getting revenge last week on Northwestern, the Patriots (7-2) traveled to Rockledge to take on the Raiders (7-1) in the Semi-Finals round of the 2020 FHSAA Football State Championships for the chance to advance to the Region Finals.
On the first play of the opening drive of the game, the Raiders connected on a deep pass that immediately put them in scoring opportunity inside the five yard line, where they would cash in with a rushing score three plays later to take the early 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing Patriot possession, sophomore QB Blake Murphy responded, connecting twice with senior WR Mike Watkins to march down the field before tying up the game with a six-yard touchdown pass.
Looking to regain the lead, the Raiders were driving down to midfield until senior FS James Williams ripped the ball free and returned it to Rockledge’s own six yard line. Moments later, Murphy and the Patriots capitalized, taking a 14-7 advantage after the sophomore QB lobbed up a TD pass to senior WR Oronde Gasden with under a minute remaining in the opening quarter.
Both teams exchanged possessions before Heritage found themselves deep in Raider territory with under a minute remaining in the half. With 47 seconds left, Murphy threw for his third touchdown of the half, this one being hauled in by Watkins for a 16 yard score to give the Patriots a 21-7 lead heading into the break.
The Patriots failed to generate much offense on the first drive of the second half, punting to the Raiders and backing them deep in their own territory. On a Rockledge third down, the Patriots sacked the quarterback in the Raiders’ own endzone, resulting in a safety and two more points to increase Heritage’s lead to 23-7.
Later in the quarter, the Patriots marched down the field once again, this time settling for a field goal from senior kicker Chris Maron to extend their advantage to 26-7.
The Raiders finally responded midway through the fourth quarter, finding the endzone to cut the deficit to 26-14. Time would run out on their hopes, though, securing the Heritage victory and their spot in the next round of the playoffs.
“[We had] to take shots on throwing the ball,” Murphy, who threw for three touchdown passes, said regarding the keys to escaping with the victory. “[We had] to make plays.”
The Patriots will travel to Melbourne next Friday, Nov. 28 to battle with the Commodores with their focus set on taking care of business to move on to State and keep their championship hopes alive.