It all came down to this. The varsity football team has conquered almost every opponent they’ve faced this season, and after months of training, gallons worth of sweat and loads of hard work, it all came down to the championship. After an astonishing game that kept fans on the edge of their seats, the Patriots fell one touchdown short against the top-ranked team in Florida and the third-ranked team nationally: the Miami Central Rockets. The final score was 38-31.
The game started off on a high note after winning the coin toss. Senior kicker Wylie Shaw kicked a touchback and minutes later a field goal, but Miami Central immediately responded, scoring a field goal and two touchdowns within the first quarter. Heritage reached the end zone once in the second quarter and Central did twice.
Going into halftime, the scoreboard stood 31-13 in the Rocket’s favor. However, the Patriots stepped up to the plate and showed the crowd what they could do in an epic comeback.
They spent the second half of the game carefully planning their plays, whether it was senior quarterback Blake Murphy handing off to senior running back Mark Fletcher or looking for wide receivers senior Brandon Inniss or freshman Malachi Toney. Having such talented players on both the passing and rushing ends of the offense made it challenging for the Rockets to keep up.
With two minutes left in the third quarter, the Patriots scored a rushing touchdown and went for the two point conversion instead of the usual one-point field goal the coaches usually opt for. This plan proved successful when Murphy hit Fletcher for the extra two points. This brought the score to 31-21 with Central in the lead.
The fourth quarter was the make it or break it moment. Halfway through, Murphy passed a bullet to Inniss who was wide open in the end zone after running a sharp route.
The defense played an extremely strong second half as well; for example, senior David Vadala forced a key turnover. A recovered fumble in the fourth quarter gave the Patriots an extra chance to score, and they took advantage of this opportunity; Shaw kicked yet another field goal to make the score 38-31.
Unfortunately, despite a second half full of hustle, dedication, passion and grit, it wasn’t enough to reach the victory, losing to Central by just one touchdown. The Patriots finish the season as finalists in the 2M bracket of the FHSAA Football State Championships.
“The second half of the state championship was one of the most amazing football comebacks I’ve ever seen. [Heritage] went from losing by 18 at halftime to only being down by one touchdown in the fourth quarter. Even though we didn’t win, I was very proud while supporting my school’s team,” sophomore Arianna Borhan said.
All photos and videos taken by Zoe Horwiz.