It's not always where you start, but where you finish. That's the battle cry of many slow-starting teams who finish on top.
A good example is the Norcross (Ga.)
football team. The Blue Devils started with a mighty thud, losing 55-0 in their season opener, only to rebound in a big way with 13 straight wins to take a AAAAAA Georgia state title.
As for the team that opened with that 55-0 win? The Booker T. Washington (Miami)
They started fast and ended likewise with a 14-0 record, a Florida 4A state title and a mythical national title by earning the No. 1 spot in the Final Xcellent 25 national rankings
For their sparkling start, nearly perfect game against Norcross and a hard-earned national championship season, the Washington Tornadoes are the MaxPreps 2013-14 Boys Team of the Year.
Booker T. beat three state champions along the way, defeating crosstown rival Central, which went on to a 6A state title and a No. 4 national ranking, and Nevada juggernaut Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), which finished No. 17 at 13-2.
Norcross (13-2) finished at No. 24.
Washington used a speedy, stout defense to allow less than 10 points per game (the Tornadoes registered three shutouts) and a quick-striking offense led by Florida-bound quarterback Treon Harris
. Despite missing four games with an injury, Harris threw for 2,113 yards and 28 touchdowns (just four interceptions), plus he ran for 633 yards and nine more scores.
Sophomore Mark Walton
picked up the slack when Harris was out and rushed for 871 yards and 14 scores on just 100 carries.
Harris and the Tornadoes were at their best in that season opener in Georgia with a national television audience. Harris passed for 287 yards and five touchdowns in that game, plus he rushed for 59 yards and another score.
Two weeks later in a game that paired the two top-ranked teams in the country, Harris was again the difference with 218 passing yards while accounting for three scores in a 28-17 win over Central
Third-year starting linebacker Terry Jefferson
, a junior, finished it off with a 65-yard interception return for a touchdown in the final seconds. The victory not only put the Tornadoes in prime position to take the national crown, but it also snapped a four-year losing streak to their archrivals.
Central looked to be going in for a potential go-ahead touchdown when Jefferson made the play and run of the season.
"I just knew it was time for a big play for our team," he said. "We had the lead and once the ball got in my hands I felt like we should just finish them. Once I got the ball I was gone. There was nobody going to stop me."
Nor the Tornadoes the rest of the season. They finished their second unbeaten campaign in school history.
After Washington finished with a 40-21 win over Bolles, talk of a national title was imminent.
"That sounds great," Washington star defensive end Chad Thomas
told the Miami Herald
. "We made history for the first time and we'll always be remembered for that. We never lost a game this season but went through plenty of adversity and found a way to work our way through it."
Other teams the Tornadoes beat out for the award: Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) basketball:
Led by the MaxPreps Player of the Year Stanley Johnson
and National Coach of the Year Gary McKnight
, the Monarchs won their fourth-straight California top division title and a mythical national championship. St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) football:
Perhaps playing the toughest schedule in the country, and considered by some the best team to ever come out of a talent-rich Southern California, Bosco went 16-0 and defeated four-time defending Open Division champion De La Salle in the state final. The Braves finished No. 3 in the country.Allen (Texas) football:
Before a state-record crowd of 54,347, Allen overwhelmed Pearland 63-28
to win the UIL 5A Division I state title behind junior quarterback Kyler Murray
, who accounted for six touchdowns. The victory capped a 16-0 season and the Eagles finished with a No. 2 national ranking.