Varsity Preps

Kosnitzky’s Korner: South Dade Betters Apopka; Wins 8A Title

(Photo Source: Miami Herald)

Twitter Follow: @akosnitzky


When South Dade arrived to the Florida Citrus Bowl several minutes late and the escorts arrived from the opposite sides of the stadium as the team buses, the players did not seem flustered. They were excited to be in Orlando for the state finals. For a group which had never played beyond a regional final in the school’s 60 year history, the team from Homestead acclimated well to the 9,000 loud fans supporting their opponent, Apopka.  These were many of the same people which saw the Blue Darters win the title last year.


With Quarterback, Zach Darlington, who showed greatness in last year’s title game, out for the season, the team relied on Chandler Cox who led the Blue Darters to the most points in a season in school history (762). South Dade knew they would have to score a lot of points on this evening.   To add to the emotion and energize the Orlando school, Chandler Cox would enter the field wearing Zach Darlington’s number 6 jersey.


However, the Bucs from Homestead approached this game like there was no tomorrow. A once in a lifetime experience for the school and community. This edge made them dangerous. In addition, playing in a district embedded with parity made them obscure. Most expected Miramar or Deerfield Beach to represent the south and South Dade was a district runner-up who nearly missed the playoffs. Hence, as an underdog, South Dade would travel outside their part of the state with approximately 1,200 fans as a virtual unknown. 


South Dade would quickly quiet the crowd on their second offensive play of the game.  Quarterback, Khalil Render would connect with FSU commit, C.J. Worton for a 71 yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead. Worton would finish the game with 6 receptions for 159 yards and 3 touchdowns.  This play was significant because after making the catch and getting past the Apopka defenders, Worton turned his head toward those defenders for the final 20 yards which showed his speed.  He would get flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, but we would see South Dade’s speed advantage on both sides of the ball all night.  


Miami recruit, Tyre Brady would catch a 24 yard touchdown pass from Render moments later and South Dade would take a quick 13-0 lead.   Apopka would then show why they had won 13 straight games when J.J. Simmons and Chris Velasquez would find the end zone on two successive drives, giving the Blue Darters a 14-13 lead.  This would be the only time South Dade would trail on this night.  With Worton and Brady covered, Render connected with a 71 yard touchdown pass to Tarviant Williams to retake the lead and close the scoring for the first half.


The teams would trade touchdowns in the 2nd half but South Dade would not realize their dream until Brady recovered a fumble and returned the ball 15 yards for a touchdown with 1:10 remaining in the game.  As a 15 point underdog, South Dade (14-1) defeated Apopka (13-2) 41-28.  In addition to the mentioned success of others, Render rushed for 110 yards and threw for 320 yards and 5 touchdowns. Defensively, Mario Mezier led the team with tackles and Derek Nottage made the lone interception which ended Apopka’s last drive of the half.


For South Dade, they truly were the sleeping giant that awoke in this final.  In last year’s 8A final, the discussion was about the referees from Hernando County.  This time the officials from the Treasure Coast did not influence the result.  Apopka has structures in place to return to this game on a routine basis, while the jury is still out on the future for South Dade.  In an area where much of the news is given to schools such as Booker T. Washington, Central and Northwestern, Coach Hudson deserves praise for keeping the core athletes we saw Saturday night.  His staff’s ability to cultivate their existing talent was realized and South Dade is truly a Champion!



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