The Heritage Patriots rolled past the No. 1 seed Rockledge Raiders 31-14, to advance to the Regional Finals. Although an 11-point underdog, the Patriots upset the Raiders in part to an explosive run game and stingy defense.
The Patriots started hot, scoring on their first two possessions. Senior running back Tyler Jones found the endzone first on a 14-yard rush up the gut for six. The Patriots defense then forced a quick three-and-out to give the ball back to the offense. On the ensuing drive, long runs from Jones and his counterpart senior Lavelton Williams, put the Patriots at the 1-yard line. From there, it only took a single rushing attempt for Williams to bulldoze his way past the goal line, extending the lead to 14-0 only eight minutes into play.
The Raiders immediately turned the tables on a long touchdown. Junior Ladarius Tennison took a handoff 65 yards to the house, cutting the Patriot lead to a one score game. After forcing a Patriot punt, the Raiders failed to put a drive together to tie it up.
Many changes of possession and punts slowed the game down, until a 24-yard rushing touchdown for Jones late in the second quarter. Senior kicker Jimmy Lowery was able to tack on a field goal in the first half, making the halftime lead 24-7 for the Patriots.
A long, seven minute Raider drive took up most of the third quarter. Eventually, with two minutes to go in the quarter, senior Jalen Mitchell punched it in from a yard out, to close the gap to 10.
However, the Raiders could not pull off the comeback, as the Patriots soon widened the margin back to 17. Jones rushed 45-yards to the promised land for his third touchdown of the night, sealing the Patriots’ 31-14 victory.
Jones ended with 142 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while junior quarterback Edwin Rhodes threw for 153 yards, 76 of which went to junior wideout Douglas Emilien.
The Patriots will face division rival Cardinal Gibbons in the Regional Final next Friday. The Patriots lost its first bout to the Chiefs this season on a last second interception.