After the Patriots took care of business last week, Heritage hosted Northwestern in the Quarter-Finals Friday, Nov. 20, seeking a ticket to the Semi-Finals of the 2020 FHSAA Football State Championship.
Following a Heritage punt on their opening possession of the night, a return to midfield set the Bulls up in favorable field position, where they capitalized with a 41-yard field goal with 2:05 left in the first quarter to capture the early 3-0 lead.
After unsuccessful drives from either side, the Bulls found themselves in scoring position late in the second quarter until junior DB Jacolby Spells intercepted the ball in the end zone and returned it to the 51 yard line. Time ran out on the Patriots’ scoring hopes, though, keeping the game 3-0 in favor of the Bulls at the half.
On their opening drive of the third quarter, the Patriots finally found their rhythm, marching down the field and capping off the drive with a QB sneak touchdown from sophomore QB Blake Murphy with 8:24 remaining in the third quarter. Following an unsuccessful PAT, the Patriots took a 6-3 advantage.
“Our mindset when we got into the locker room was that we have to score and we can’t turn the ball over,” Murphy said regarding the team’s efforts to overcome a scoreless first half. “We thought running would be best for us at the moment, and it was.”
On the ensuing possession, senior DB James Williams scooped up a loose ball off the srtip sack fumble, setting up Murphy and the Patriots at the Bulls’ own 15 yard line. The Patriots eventually faced a fourth down and settled for a successful field goal try from senior kicker Chris Maron to extend the lead to 9-3 with over six minutes left in the third quarter.
Another interception from the Patriots in the waning minutes of the third, courtesy of junior LB Jaeden Kinlock, halted another Bulls’ scoring opportunity in the red zone, keeping the score at 9-3 heading into the final quarter of play.
Midway through the fourth quarter, a Bulls’ punt backed up the Patriots at their own one yard line with minutes to go in regulation and holding a six point lead. After a QB sneak from Murphy gave the Patriots some breathing room, the sophomore signal caller headed over to the sideline to receive some attention from the athletic trainers, forcing senior WR Vinson Davis (who filled in for an injured Murphy during the regular season) to step in.
“I was thinking about the win,” Davis said regarding his sudden change to under center. “My QB went down, and I knew if I made a couple plays, [the game] was over.”
Davis willed the Patriots down the field, setting up a field goal attempt for Maron before hobbling off the field himself. To give Heritage a 12-3 lead and the two possession advantage, Maron split the uprights to ice the game with 2:30 left in regulation.
A final interception from the Patriots’ defense would put the final nail in the coffin, sealing Heritage’s comeback win over the defending state champions who defeated the Patriots a year ago.
The Patriots will now advance to the Semi-Finals next Friday, Nov. 27, where they will take on Rockledge (7-1) for a chance to move on to the Regional Finals, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.