Football High School

American Heritage Routs Baker County 44-15, Pats Win Second Straight 5A Title

ORLANDO – Players and fans enjoy the euphoria that comes along with winning a championship in the waning seconds.

But imagine being able to revel in that championship feeling for nearly 30 minutes.

Thanks to a 37-point first half – which was sparked by a four-touchdown outburst in the second quarter – Plantation American Heritage coasted to a 44-15 win over Baker County Friday afternoon to win its second straight Class 5A state championship in Orlando Camping World Stadium.

Heritage (14-0) extended its Broward County-best winning streak to 28 straight victories – including 2016’s title run – and became the first team in Broward County history to win back to back state championships with undefeated seasons. Friday’s win was also the Patriots’ fourth Class 5A crown in five years – American Heritage won back to back titles in 2013 and 2014.

The Patriots also earned the honor of being South Florida’s (Miami-Dade and Broward counties) only undefeated team this season – with wins over Virginia Bishop Sullivan, Nevada’s No. 2 team Liberty and two close battles with district rival Cardinal Gibbons.

It looked as though American Heritage was headed for an outcome similar to its 66-8 win over Clay High School in the 2013 title game, but Baker County (13-2) made the third quarter interesting – scoring on its first drive of the second half, recovering the ensuing onside kick, and scoring again on a double-pass to rack up 15 points in a matter of two minutes.

But the running clock, which was turned on thanks to Anthony Schwartz’s 37-yard touchdown run – his second score of the first half – with 1:30 left in the second quarter to put the Patriots up 37-0, was just as insurmountable for Baker County as the Patriots were.

Heritage quarterback Cam Smith pushed the final margin to 44-15 midway through the fourth quarter with a 1-yard dive into the end zone – his fourth total touchdown of the day.

Second-year head coach Patrick Surtain, who served as the team’s defensive coordinator for the past four seasons before being promoted to head coach when former coach Mike Rumph took a job as an assistant at the University of Miami, said he had been challenging his team to play a “perfect game” all season and it finally answered the bell Friday.

Things got off to an auspicious start for Heritage right away – as the Patriots opened the game with a methodical 13-play, 77-yard scoring drive which senior quarterback Cam Smith capped with a 1-yard plunge.

American Heritage tacked on a field goal just before the end of the first quarter – taking a 10-0 lead after another long, systematic drive (11 plays, 69 yards).

Then Heritage broke open the game.

Smith connected with a wide-open Joshua Alexander on a 39-yard strike not even three minutes into the second quarter.

Heritage’s defense added a score midway through the second when senior defensive tackle and University of Miami commit Nesta Silvera scooped up a fumble and was escorted by a convoy of Patriots 57 yards to the end zone.

The 6-foot-1, 300-pound senior “rumbled, bumbled and stumbled” his way to completing one of the season-long goals he had for himself.

Schwartz, a national record-holding sprinter, completed the run with back to back scores within two minutes – a 43-yard reception and the 37-yard dash on an end around – showcasing his world-class speed.

Smith put together an efficient performance. He went 7-of-11 passing for 144 yards with two scores and ran for a game-high 65 yards and two scores on 11 carries. Jordan Johnson added 46 rushing yards while Miles Jones caught a game-high three passes for 44 yards.

Baker County, which brought one of the bigger crowds of the weekend, looked shell-shocked in the first half and literally couldn’t keep up with the speed and athleticism of the Patriots.

Nick Lee led the Wildcats with 51 rushing yards, while Seth Paige accounted for both of Baker County’s touchdowns – a 3-yard run and a 48-yard reception.

Smith, who played his senior season with Plantation American Heritage after spending the first three years of his career at Delray American Heritage, said that Friday’s outcome made everything worthwhile.

“I’ve only been [at Plantation American Heritage] for one year, but it feels like it was for my whole career because of how close I got with all the guys,” Smith said. “It means a lot to me to be able to come here and help this program continue on its championship path.”

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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