Pahokee in championship game

footballPAHOKEE – Pahokee kept the dream of a state championship alive as they held off Madison County 21-19 in the Class 1A State Semifinal at Anquan Boldin Stadium.

Rodney McKay rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns to lead the offense, which was held to a season low 253 yards by the Cowboys.

“I feel good,” McKay said afterward, ”It feels good to win. I trust in my team, my coaches, my line, and everybody in the community. I’m ready to bring it (state title) home.”

Pahokee will play Baker County on Dec. 8 at 1 p.m. in Orlando.

Coach Orson Walkes said he was elated and that the community deserved this night, “It has been a long time coming for the community. I appreciate the hard work of the kids and I thank God for being with us every step of the way.”

McKay scored on a two yard run on the first drive of the night. The drive took eight plays and 65 yards. A key third down pass from Tyrone Smith to Zatavian Morgan for 24 yards kept the drive going. McKay said it was important to get the early lead.

“It was a dream to know that we scored first and we got the momentum,” he added.

Madison County responded with a 62 yard drive that ended in a 30 yard touchdown pass to Teryon Henderson but the play was called back by a pass interference call.

Pahokee took over on the seven yard line and got a key first down on another third down pass to Morgan that covered 21 yards. Smith though was intercepted by Travis Jay at the Cowboy 45 yard line later in the drive.

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Pahokee made it 14-0 in the second quarter when Madison fumbled a punt and Elijah Bens recovered at the Cowboy 34 yard line. Smith hit wide receiver Tyron Arnett for a 15 yard touchdown pass four plays later to make it 14-0.

Arnett said he was one on one with the cornerback and knew he could win that matchup.

“I’m a good route runner. I feel that no one can guard our receivers man to man this year.”

Madison County responded with a 62 yard scoring drive to cut the Pahokee lead to 14-6. Quarterback Tre Adams took a read option play 45 yards for a touchdown.

Okeechobee quickly responded with a 50 yard touchdown drive capped by a six yard run by McKay to go up 21-6 at halftime.

“I just trusted my blockers. The offensive coordinator made a good call and the play went for a touchdown,” McKay added.

Things got a bit dicey in the second half as Madison County rallied with two touchdowns. Jay picked off a second pass at the goal line to thwart the Blue Devils best scoring threat of the half. Henderson, who ran for 134 yards on 24 carries, was a big part of the rally. A short touchdown run capped a 61 yard drive in the third to make it 21-12 and Adams capped a 51 yard drive midway through the fourth quarter with a one yard run to make it 21-19.

From there the Blue Devils used their defense, and a key penalty on fourth down of roughing the punter, to run out most of the clock.

A last second Hail Mary pass was picked off in the end zone to end the game. Afterward the jubilant crowd celebrated with the team as they played the high school Alma Mater.

Walkes said he wanted to thank Palm Beach County and all the fans and supporters of the team.

“It has just been a wonderful trip. We just have to go and finish it now.”

Walkes said it was an important victory for the community of Pahokee, which has suffered through some tough economic times, “I don’t want to say it’s everything, but it means a lot. It means a lot to us, we take a lot of pride in our kids, we take a lot of pride in the sport, it is good when they both come together and we have success with it.”

Walkes said nobody quit in this game and Madison County deserved a lot of credit for their hard play.

“I’m just proud of our kids. I wish we could have taken care of the ball better but I’m ready to bring back the championship to Pahokee,” he added.

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Arnett, a senior, called the victory a dream come true, “It is something you grow up trying to do. You hear about all the wins and the all the state titles and you just want to grow up and get one yourself,” he added.

McKay said the team must stay focused, continue to practice hard, and realize the season isn’t over, they still have one game to play.

“It is just a dream. It feels good that we are going to state. We haven’t been there in a long time.”

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