PAHOKEE – Pahokee put together touchdown drives of 93, 85 and 80 yards Friday, Sept. 2, as they defeated Wayne Hills, New Jersey 34-23 in high school football at Anquan Boldin Stadium.
Rodney McKay rushed for 167 yards and three touchdowns and quarterback Tyrone ‘TJ’ Smith threw for 209 yards and a touchdown to lead the Blue Devils offense. The defense had an interception and a forced fumble and held high rated Patriot passer Brendan DeVara to only 58 passing yards. The Blue Devil pass rush in the second half constantly harassed DeVara, and had five sacks in the game.
Pahokee Coach Orson Walkes said he was pleased with the team’s play after the victory.
“I felt my kids played hard and my coaches coached hard, but I also think we can play better. We enjoyed the opportunity to defend the state, we feel that we are one of the better teams in the state, so who better than us to defend Florida than Pahokee,” he explained.
Wayne Hills got the opening kickoff and had three first downs behind the strong runs of Luca Grave who finished the game with 134 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown before he was knocked out of the game in the third quarter. A Pahokee sack stopped the drive at the Blue Devil 40.
Pahokee took over deep in their own territory at the seven yard line and promptly drove 93 yards in three plays for a touchdown. Smith hit a short pass and then aired it out for a 70 yard pass to Cory Amilcar who outran the defense for a 6-0 lead just six minutes into the game. McKay added the two point conversion for an (8-0) lead.
Wayne Hills responded with a 65 yard touchdown drive keyed by a 22 yard kick return by Evidence Njoku, 43 yards in rushing by Grave, and a 26 yard jet sweep by Hunter Hayek. DeVara capped the drive with a quarterback sneak from the one yard line on the first play of the second quarter to cut the Pahokee lead to 8-7.
Pahokee responded with a 67 yard touchdown drive in eight plays keyed by a 19 yard run by James Blackman. Blackman carried for an 11 yard touchdown run to finish the drive and a two point conversion pass gave the Blue Devils (2-0) a 16-7 lead.
Pahokee’s Latarie Kinsler recovered a fumble on the next Patriot drive and the Blue Devils promptly drove 66 yards in four plays to take a 22-7 lead. McKay scored the touchdown on a three yard run.
Pahokee had another chance to score just before halftime but a sure touchdown pass was dropped in the end zone. The Blue Devils added an interception on the final play of the half.
Pahokee defender Adarius Dent said the team wanted to defend their town and Florida with this win, “I feel very good. My people came out to watch us ball, and everybody thought we would lose this game. We came out here tonight and showed up.”
Wayne Hill cut the lead to 22-14 early in the third after an interception at the Pahokee 40 by Hayek. Three plays later the Patriots were back in the game thanks to a 23 yard touchdown run by Graves.
Pahokee responded quickly with a six play 80 yard drive to go back up 28-14. Key plays included a 32 yard pass from Smith to Tryon Arnett. McKay busted loose for a 22 yard run and capped the drive with a 19 yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter.
Mars Hill cut the lead to 28-21 on the last play of the third quarter after a fumble recovery by linemen Ky Salley in Pahokee territory. They drove 34 yards in five plays and DeVara threw his best pass of the night when he threw a fade to 6’6″ wide receiver Njoku for a seven yard touchdown pass.
Pahokee came back with a nine play 85 yard drive to clinch the victory. Tyler Gilbert caught a 17 yard pass for a third down conversion and added a leaping 39 yard reception to give Pahokee a first down at the Patriot 10 yard line. McKay did the rest with two runs up the middle, the last for three yards to give Pahokee a 34-21 lead.
The Blue Devils intentionally took a safety later in the quarter for the final points.
Wayne Hills had another scoring chance after a Pahokee fumble and DeVara appeared to hit Dom Dicarlo on a slant pattern for the touchdown but the ball bounced off his chest. A final drive by the Patriots ended in a fourth down sack at the buzzer by Dent.
The senior defender said Pahokee stayed mentally tough when things didn’t go their way.
Coach Walkes said he’d like to see weekly improvement. He said the offense is yet to hit all cylinders and the defense gave up more points than he would like.
“I honestly believe that our guys can get better. We are going to push them to improve. It was a good team win tonight.”
Walkes said he also came away impressed with the Patriots program and how they played.
“I thought Wayne Hill was a class act. Those kids played hard the whole way and our kids played hard for the entire game. It was good hard fought competition. Next week I want to see us keep moving forward. We’ll try to clean up our mistakes on offense, start quicker on defense and we’ll be fine.”
Walkes also said he set a goal of the state title because he wants the young men to set high goals for themselves and then try to reach them.
Dent predicted the team will win the state championship and that they will be ready for Cardinal Newman when they visit next Friday, Sept. 9.
“We are fixing to blow them out. We passed the first hard team on our schedule. We are just going to keep working, go with the flow and just run away to the state championship.”
Pahokee had 143 penalty yards and had three turnovers. They were a remarkable (8-10) on third down conversions.
Blackman finished with 57 yards rushing. Arnett finished with five catches for 52 yards. Pahokee had 14 first downs and Wayne Hill 13. Wayne Hills was (4-10) on third down.