Football High School

Roundup: Northwestern Routs Naples; Aquinas & Miami High Fall

Miami Northwestern has had its fair share of success.

From 1998 to 2008, the Bulls made five state title game appearances – winning in 1998, 2006 and 2007 – with its 2007 team earning a mythical national championship and being heralded as one of the best in South Florida’s high school football history.

Since then, Northwestern has made a couple of playoff appearances, but nothing close to what the “Bull Nation” had been accustomed to.

That championship game drought ended Friday when Northwestern made relatively easy work of visiting Naples, dispatching the Eagles in a 42-7 rout in front of nearly 7,000 fans at Traz Powell Stadium in the Class 6A state semifinals.

The Bulls (12-2) will face Seffner Armwood (14-0) on Friday, December 8th at 8 p.m. in Orlando’s Camping World Stadium in the Class 6A championship game.

Naples got on the board first – with a 76-yard Cesare Mellusi touchdown run – on what appeared to be a Northwestern defensive miscommunication, then the Bulls scored 42 straight points.

Northwestern’s defense put clamps on the Eagles’ “veer” offense – holding Naples to just 160 total yards of offense with overwhelming defensive speed and athleticism.

The only thing that upstaged the Bulls’ dominant defensive performance Friday was the injury status of senior star quarterback Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell.

It appeared someone fell on the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Atwell’s right foot during the second quarter. The Bulls offensive leader hobbled to the sideline, tried to return, but ultimately sat out the entire second half.

Atwell said after the game that he could have returned after halftime, but remained out as a precaution and because the Northwestern’s offense continued to roll in his absence.

Justin Hill replaced Atwell as the signal caller for the Bulls offense and led the team on three second-half scoring drives – running for a score and throwing a pair of touchdown passes to Derrick Davis and Quavon Beckford – turning on a running clock in the fourth quarter.

“This is a big moment for the entire Bulls community,” head coach Max Edwards said.

Aquinas Falls To Venice

All good things come to an end.

St. Thomas Aquinas had its bid for a fourth straight state title and streak of 20 consecutive playoff wins snapped Friday night, falling to host Venice 27-20 in the Class 7A state semifinals.

Venice (13-1), which will play Bartram Trail in the 7A state title game next Saturday in Orlando’s Camping World Stadium, had vengeance on its mind against the Raiders. It was Aquinas that knocked the Indians out of the playoffs this past season – ruining their undefeated season – and Venice wanted nothing more than to return the favor.

It didn’t help St. Thomas’ case to win that it had no answer for Venice dual-threat quarterback Bryce Carpenter. The 3-star, Coastal Carolina commit rushed for a game-high 158 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Indians.

Aquinas was able to tie the game at 20 early in the fourth quarter, but a Gregory Brandon touchdown with just over six minutes left in the game ended up being the difference – as the St. Thomas offense struggled to produce any substantial momentum to mount a rally.

The Raiders did get 110 rushing yards from junior running back Daniel Carter and a first-quarter 51-yard touchdown pass from converted quarterback Derek Wingo to Tavares Kelly, but couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities over the final 36 minutes.

Miami High Falls To Atlantic

The last time Miami High won a football state championship (1965), most of the parents of the Stingarees’ current football players weren’t even alive.

While they were hoping that 2017 would be the year that they end the drought, all their hopes were dashed as Miami High fell 28-21 to host Delray Beach Atlantic Friday night in the Class 8A state semifinals.

Miami High (11-2) let its 21-20 lead slip away in the final minute when Atlantic capped a scoring drive with a 5-yard Henry Bryant run and tacked on a two-point conversion to put the Eagles up 28-21 with just 51 seconds left.

The Stingarees had one final possession, but it was derailed by a sack and a penalty – which led to a turnover on downs.

Turnovers were ultimately the Stingarees’ undoing. Two interceptions – one returned for a touchdown right before halftime and the other setting up the Eagles with a short field and leading to a score – sank Miami High.

Johnny Ford turned in another solid performance for Miami High in his final high school football game – rushing for 129 yards on 24 carries as well putting the Stings up 21-20 in the third. However, quarterback Isaias Castellon – who was among Miami-Dade’s leading passers this season – completed just 11 of his 30 passes for 152 yards while turning the ball over twice.

J.T. Wilcox
J.T. Wilcox is an award-winning sports journalist who has worked in South Florida for more than a decade. He authors "The Bald Predictions" blog and "The Baldcast" podcast.

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