As Washington (Miami)
junior linebacker Terry Jefferson
weaved his way down field in the waning moments of his team’s national showdown with crosstown rival Central (Miami)
, his head coach Tim “Ice” Harris was anything but cool.
Harris, racing down the sideline parallel to Jefferson, was pleading with his 5-foot-9, 170-pound linebacker to fall on the ground to preserve an excruciatingly hard-earned win.
Finally, seeing there was no quit in the diminutive but talented third-year starter — yes Jefferson started as a freshman — Harris relented. Jefferson did not stop, completing a 65-yard interception return with 9.9 seconds remaining to put a cherry on top of this as-good-as-advertised 28-17 Washington victory before 8,000 exhausted and sweaty South Florida fans at steamy Traz Powell Stadium.
The Tornadoes, a relatively calm and composed bunch, broke into a wild celebration after Jefferson crossed the goal line. It ended a four-year losing streak to Central and cemented this battle royale of the country’s No. 1 and 2 teams.
Washington (2-0), which fought back from a 14-7 halftime deficit, kept alive its hope for a mythical national championship. It came in No. 1 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Football Rankings. It was Central's first defeat to a Miami-Dade County team since 2008.
“I was saying ‘Go down, go down,’ but then I saw the effort and I rooted him all the way to the end zone,” coach Harris said. “I was probably the one who got us the penalty.”
Jefferson wasn’t real visible most of the night, which largely belonged to the well-known playmakers, including Washington quarterback Treon Harris
, who accounted for 222 yards and three scores, and the dynamic Central tandem of Joseph Yearby
and Dalvin Cook
, who combined 200 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
But Jefferson sure finished it off appropriately in what many believe was the biggest regular season game in Miami-Dade County history, which is saying something.
The region is generally regarded as producing the greatest wealth of top-end football talent in the country and Friday’s game and the wide array of skill sets certainly supported that notion.
That’s why, Jefferson said, he couldn’t just take a knee to seal it.
“I just knew it was time for a big play for our team,” said Jefferson, who caught a tipped pass before zig-zagging his way downfield. “We had the lead and once the ball got in my hands I felt like we should finish them. Once I got the ball I was gone. There was nobody going to stop me.”
He looked stopped at least three times, once for sure at the Central 15, but he somehow zipped to his right and dove into the end zone. It was his first interception return for touchdown.
“This is a big-time rivalry,” Jefferson said. “My time wasn’t falling on the ball and killing the game. It was ‘Finish it, finish it’ and that’s what I did.”
Late in the first half, it looked as if Central, led by those two backs and a big, physical, talented offensive line, were in the midst of finishing things.
Two short punts – really short – set up a 29-yard touchdown jaunt around right end by Miami-bound Yearby (5-foot-10, 195 pounds) and the 11-yard touchdown scamper off the left side from the Florida-commited Cook (6-1, 190), giving the Rockets a 14-7 lead with a minute left in the first half.
Besides getting their running game rolling, their fast and furious defense had really shut down Washington, which did pretty much what it wanted in a 55-0 win over then third-ranked Norcross two weeks ago
Treon Harris, the son of Tim “Ice” and brother of offensive coordinator Tim Jr., broke loose just once on a 29-yard scamper and three plays later found Krondis Larry
with a 20-yard scoring strike on the second play of the second quarter.
Those two plays accounted for 49 on the team’s 76 yards in the first half.
“We weren’t clicking, but Central had a lot to do with it,” Treon Harris said. “They’re a very good team with a lot of athletes. We didn’t panic. We just had to keep our heads up.”
Treon Harris kept it up in the second half, throwing for 151 of his 192 yards while completing 6 of 7 passes including a beautiful 59-yard touchdown bomb to Deltron Hopkins
to start the third quarter. That tied it at 14.
Hopkins said Treon Harris kept the Tornadoes encouraged at halftime.
“(Treon Harris) is tremendous,” Hopkins said. “The guy is just great. He wants to be the best. He’s an awesome quarterback.”
But Cook and Yearby are probably the most awesome running tandem in the country. When Yearby went left, then jabbed right on a beautiful 59-yard run just before the end of the third, Central looked to take control again.
But Jefferson stuck Cook for a three-yard loss and the small, but the mighty Washington defense held Central to a 20-yard field goal from Beymar Piraquive with 10:15 left in the game.
“They got a great trio of running backs over there, but our defense in the second half was able to slow that down,” Tim Harris said.
Said Washington cornerback Nigel Bethel
: “We just came out more hungry in the second half.”
The defensive stand seemed to fire up the offense, especially Harris, who completed back-to-back bombs of 30 and 34 yards to Lamar Parker
and Mark Walton
, setting up his own 2-yard scoring run around right end with 7:37 to play.
That put Washington up 21-17 and was the last offensive score of the game. But Jefferson’s defensive touchdown had a lot of offensive moves.
His final score was almost particularly meaningful for the Tornadoes, who feature numerous smallish but determined players.
“He’s one of our undersized guys who always comes to play,” coach Harris said. “He always give you maximum effort, every play. That’s what we try to teach at Booker T. Washington.”
Said Treon Harris, undersized as a 5-11, 180-pound quarterback who has already committed to Florida State.
“Size doesn’t mean anything,” Treon Harris said. “It’s all about your heart and work ethic. I think we proved that tonight.”