Coming into last Friday night's district survival game at Monsignor Pace, nobody was giving this same Raider team a chance of knocking off a team that many figured would stand in Pahokee's way of 2B dominance.
Junior standout Tacoi Sumler caught seven passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns, and came down with a late interception that sealed Gulliver's 28-27 victory and sends this Raider team into the first round of the playoffs in two weeks at the same North Broward Prep team they beat last year.
"This was a huge win for this program," said Sumler. Many people felt we lost too many players to compete for a district playoff spot this year."
With so many quality players moving on to the collegiate level, and the transfer of University of Tennessee commitment Ralph Williams to Southridge, many were giving senior quarterback Michael Strauss and this team virtually no chance of making the playoffs again this season.
The victory not only was Gulliver's first ever at Pace's home field, but it knocked the district favorite Spartans out of the playoffs as upstart Chaminade-Madonna won the district and will host Pahokee in the first round.
It also snapped Monsignor Pace's 18-year run of making the playoffs, which was tied with Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas for the longest streak in state history.
Strauss threw for 251 yards and two touchdowns on 17-of-41 attempts, and helped the Raiders erase a 27-18 deficit in the third quarter. After a Franco Viola field goal cut the deficit to six points, Gulliver regained possession. Strauss swung a pass near the sideline to Sumler, who broke it down the sideline for a 48-yard go-ahead score.
The Raiders' defense put continuous pressure on University of Miami-bound quarterback Stephen Morris, who finished with 147 yards passing and two touchdowns.
"Huge win for this program," said Strauss, who committed to attend Tulane University. "All year, people have been counting us out, and now, we have the chance to go back and play a tough North Broward Prep team."
In other Miami-Dade County games this week:
- Sebastian Villadiego threw for 191 yards on 11-of-20 passing and two touchdowns and added 90 yards on 11 carries as the Falcons won their first district title ever, 24-22, over Varela.
Sophomore running back Steve Braddy carried the ball 22 times for 127 yards and a touchdown.
- After a 3-7 finish a year ago, South Dade showed why many believe this football team could be a real surprise in the playoffs under first year head coach Greg Dentino.
The Bucs' 24-7 win over rival Homestead included a touchdown run by Torry Clayton, a 39-yard field goal by J.J. Worton and a 14-yard touchdown run by Jeremy Hill.
- Sophomore running back Randy "Duke" Johnson shook off a poor game the week before against Belen Jesuit and came up with 176 yards rushing on 11 carries and four touchdowns as Norland cruised to a playoff-clinching 42-6 win over Mater Academy.
Viking's junior Brian Malcolm had eight runs for 72 yards.
- Wilfred Butler ran the ball 23 times and rushed for 160 yards and a touchdown as Palmetto (6-3, 3-2) reclaimed the Big Cat Trophy for the first time in five years with a 34-0 win over Killian. But with South Dade's win over Homestead, the Panthers will not make the playoffs this year under head coach Larry Coffey.
Wyatt Chickillo went 7 for 13 and threw for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Killian was led by FIU-bound standout Richard Leonard, who rushed 13 times for 46 yards.
- Junior defensive lineman Elkino Watson had three sacks, a fumble recovery and a tackle on running back Carlton Colson that resulted in a safety as the state's No. 1 rated 3A team, Booker T. Washington rolled to a 37-0 win over rival Edison.
University of Florida-bound defensive end Lyndon Trail blocked a punt and linebacker Michael Ross recovered and returned it six yards for a touchdown. Senior running back Eduardo Clements, who is headed to the University of Miami, played for the first time since injuring his knee Oct. 3 against Northwestern. He was used primarily as a decoy on quarterback bootleg plays, but did carry the ball once for a 31 yard touchdown.
- Demetrius Whitehead threw for 168 yards and four touchdowns passes to lead Jackson to a 35-0 victory against Key West as the Generals clinched second place in District 13-6A and their first playoff appearance since 2006.
Whitehead hit sophomore Deandre Jasper on a 10-yard fade route to the left corner of the end zone to give Jackson a 7-0 lead with 6:40 left in the first quarter. Senior Rashard Stewart pitched a shovel pass to junior Therezie Robenson, who ran it in from 16 yards out and Whitehead connected with Chad Dancy for a 19-yard touchdown pass.
- Sergio Fernandez-Soto scored three touchdowns as the district champion Belen Jesuit Wolverines reached the end zone on their first five possessions in a 48-7 win over Westland Hialeah.
Fernandez-Soto added a 16-yard touchdown run out of the Wildcat formation and a 66-yard catch-and-run.
- Former University of Miami standout defensive back Earl Little has won some big games in his career, but none larger that his Dr. Krop's playoff clinching 23-10 win against his alma mater North Miami.
Little, who took over as defensive coordinator this season, helped the Lightning into the playoffs for the first time in 12 years as junior Lekambrick Hanna returned and interception 55 yards for a touchdown. Senior Gerald Love secured the other interception.
Dr. Krop quarterback Marlon Kelly completed 7 of 17 passes for 167 yards and threw for a touchdown. Sophomore kicker Ricardo Perez booted a 45-yard field goal.
- The running game of Corvin Lamb, Israel Linder and Jerrill Jenkins combined for 146 yards as the state's No. 1 rated Northwestern Bulls rolled to a 61-0 win over Miami Beach.
Jenkins took majority of the carries in the second and third quarter, and he enabled the Bulls to take a 48-0 into halftime when he pushed through defensive line for a 5-yard touchdown.
Junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 5 of 8 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
- Jakhari Gore had 200 yards on 10 carries for four touchdowns all in the first half as Columbus shutout Ronald Reagan 60-0.
Remy Curshchells led the way defensively for Columbus with a pair of interceptions as the Explorers defense held Reagan to 20 yards of offense in the first half and 69 for the game.
- Ed Smith continued to have a brilliant season for Southwest Miami as he ran for 236 yards and scored 5 times in a 46-21 win over Hialeah Gardens.
Smith, who had five touchdowns and 262 rushing yards against Coral Park to begin the season, needed only nine carries to break the 200-yard mark. He had 10 carries in all and sat out most of the second half.
- Running back Venel Hippolite rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns, including a spectacular 78-yard dash to lead Miami High to a 44-7 win over Coral Park. Senior quarterback Dalis Ruane threw for 112 yards and a touchdown.