Henry Bryant is 5-foot-11 and 280 pounds. When he gets moving, watch out.
The sophomore part-time running back, part-time defensive tackle got his legs moving, and he punched in the dramatic, late fourth-quarter touchdown that gave Atlantic a come-from-behind 28-21 victory over Miami High in the Class 8A state semifinals Friday night. The win earns Atlantic its first state championship berth since 1978.
“You don’t want to tackle Henry, just looking at him in the backfield,” Atlantic coach T.J. Jackson said. “I told coach, ‘Let’s feed him two or three times,’ and coach said, ‘That’s what I’m doing; feed him two or three times.’
“Henry said, ‘Coach, just give it to me, and I’ll score.’ ”
The Eagles’ comeback was nearly aborted before Bryant got to touch the ball. They got the ball back, down 21-20, with 5:16 remaining in the game. But three plays into the drive, a big hit punched the ball out of quarterback Antoine Williams’ hands, putting the Stingarees on Atlantic’s 33 with five minutes to go.
Atlantic forced a three-and-out, putting the ball back in Williams’ hands after he walked off the field holding his arm following the fumble.
“Just got to keep him in the game, keep him motivated,” wide receiver Corey Gammage said.
The Eagles (12-1) got the ball back on their own 20 with 3:20 left in the game. Williams led Atlantic down the field, picking up a first down with his legs, then finding Oyeh Lurry-Davis for a 41-yard bomb.
Another pass and a personal foul put the Eagles inside the 10-yard line, then Bryant got the ball three times. On the third try, he crossed into the end zone.
“I can’t get stopped this time,” Bryant said. “I had to make it.”
Atlantic’s defense was key in grabbing the momentum at the end of the second quarter.
Miami (11-2) led 13-7 and was driving down the field at the end of the half when Gammage, a Florida Gators commit at wide receiver, intercepted a pass in the end zone and carried it 101 yards for a touchdown. Instead of going into halftime with a 13-7 or maybe a 20-7 deficit, Atlantic had a 14-13 lead.
“I just saw daylight; I just had to go score,” Gammage said. “When I have the ball in my hands, go score.”
The momentum carried into the second half, as running back Shelley Singletary returned the opening kickoff 70 yards for another touchdown.
“I did it for the school, I did it for my teammates, I did it for myself,” Singletary said. “I did it for everybody.”
The Eagles will face Orlando-Dr. Phillips in the state championship game at 8 p.m. Saturday in Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Atlantic has made four state-title games but has never won a championship. This Eagles team is hoping to change that.
“The kids deserve it,” Jackson said. “I still don’t want to celebrate right now. I want to be able to go home and look at YouTube and see what I can start finding out on Dr. Phillips.”