If you were caught up at work or felt like taking it easy at home Friday night, you should lie and say you were in Belle Glade for the Muck Bowl.
The annual showdown between No. 5 Glades Central and No. 3 Pahokee was destined to be a great one, with both teams entering the game in the top half of the Post’s Top 10 and hunting for a playoff berth. What the standing-room only crowd at Effie C. Grear Field witnessed was an instant classic.
Pahokee, entering the game reeling from a drubbing at the hands of Cocoa last week, came within a minute of dropping a second consecutive game. Instead, the Blue Devils came out ahead in a 33-27 overtime thriller on the Raiders’ home field.
“This is a resilient group of young men,” Pahokee coach Orson Walkes said.
Resilience is the only way to describe the Blue Devils after what transpired in the final minutes of regulation. Third-ranked Pahokee (7-2) had just surrendered a go-ahead touchdown to fifth-ranked Glades Central (6-3) on a 1-yard touchdown run from Raiders quarterback Davious Richards, giving the home team a 27-24 lead. Glades Central coach Jessie Hester went for the two-point conversion. It failed.
Pahokee got the ball back and drove down the field. Jatarie Washington, the Blue Devils’ junior running back who totalled 201 yards and four touchdowns on 27 carries, got his team to midfield, then quarterback DeAnte Nelson picked up 20 yards on another run.
With the help of some penalties, Pahokee found itself at the Glades Central 7-yard line. Then a pair of delay-of-game penalties pushed them back to the 17, and another flag moved them back to the 24. On fourth down with about a minute on the clock, Walkes turned to seventh-grade kicker Kevin Hernandez, the younger brother of former kicker Ezekiel Hernandez, to tie the game.
“Coach Walkes gave me good advice,” Hernandez said. “He (told) me, ‘Just pretend like it’s practice.’ ”
Hernandez had to send the ball 40 yards to keep the Blue Devils’ hopes alive. The game, Muck Bowl glory and potential playoff seeding was all on the line.
“I was just praying to God, praying to God,” Pahokee defensive lineman and Louisville commit Latarie Kinsler said. “I (didn’t) look.”
The ball sailed through the uprights, giving Pahokee life. The Blue Devils held the Raiders on the last drive in regulation, forcing overtime.
The Raiders failed to move the ball on the opening overtime drive, with LaVonski Williams intercepting a pass to end the drive. Pahokee got the ball, and three plays later, Washington took his final carry — a 14-yarder — into the end zone.
“My dead granddad and my dead cousin (motivated me),” Washington said, wearing his grandfather’s name on a sleeve.
The win secures the Blue Devils’ spot in the playoffs, while Glades Central’s future looks more uncertain. The Raiders were the No. 4 team in their region entering Friday’s game, and they have to keep that spot to make the postseason. The playoff brackets will be announced today.
But more than just the playoff berth, the win gives the Pahokee bragging rights.
The Muck Bowl is the fiercest rivalry in Palm Beach County, and Glades Central scheduled Pahokee for its homecoming game. The Blue Devils celebrated the victory by planting a “PHS” flag at midfield after the win.
Pahokee won the Muck Bowl last year, but had to vacate the victory along with the rest of its wins after using an ineligible player. The last time the Blue Devils won on the Raiders’ field was in 2007.
“Trophy’s going back to Pahokee, where it belongs,” Kinsler said. “She gets homesick.”