Atlantic looking for first berth in state final since 1978

Atlantic broke one streak last week with its 35-22 win over Davie-Western in a Class 8A regional football final.

On Friday, the Eagles can snap another by beating Miami High in the state semifinals.

Atlantic (11-1) makes its first state semifinal appearance since 2001, and would earn its first berth in a state championship game since 1978 with a win over the surprising Stingarees (11-1).

“We’ve been waiting on this moment from the beginning,” Eagles defensive back Kenih Lovely said. “But it’s just another game that we’re going out to win.”

Added wide receiver Oyeh Lurry-Davis: “This is one of the biggest games I’ve ever played in, no doubt.”

Miami High won’t make things easy.

The Stingarees, seeded seventh out of eight teams in the regional playoffs, upset No. 2 Miami-Palmetto, No. 6 Miami-Southridge and No. 1 Miami-Columbus to earn their first state semifinals berth since 1992.

That slate of games was among the toughest in the state, as Southridge won last year’s Class 8A state championship, and Palmetto (No. 9) and Columbus (No. 5) were ranked in the final Associated Press state poll.

The Stingarees erased a 22-0, third-quarter deficit against Columbus last week to win 28-22, and will look to continue that momentum against the Eagles despite playing their fourth consecutive playoff game on the road.

Atlantic, on the other hand, will be playing its fourth consecutive home playoff game as its region’s fourth seed. The Nos. 1, 2 and 3 seeds (Miramar, Palm Beach Central and Deerfield Beach) were knocked out by other teams earlier in the regional playoffs.

“It’s a blessing that the kids can come together and do great things on and off the football field,” Eagles coach Tavarius Jackson said of his team’s postseason success. “They’re getting it done in the classroom, too.”

Defense has been key for the Eagles throughout the season, and particularly in the playoffs.

Atlantic, which has won 11 consecutive games, allowed a total of 21 points in its first two postseason games, and held a 35-6 fourth-quarter lead over Western before surrendering two late touchdowns.

The Eagles had five interceptions in that game, and returned two for touchdowns.

Jackson expects another solid defensive effort against Miami High, but also is looking for the offense to step up despite the absence of starting running back Shelley Singletary.

The senior is expected to miss his second consecutive game with an ankle injury.

“As the rounds get further, we have to be able to put up some points,” Jackson said.

Atlantic players are eager to take the field after a good week of practice.

“I’m fired up right now,” defensive end Jason Mercier said. “We’re preparing just by being disciplined. That’s the key, and the rest will fall in place. If everyone does their job, then we are going to be the dominant team.”

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