For both South Plantation and Deerfield Beach, the stakes couldn't have been higher. A win meant South Plantation would claim both the district title and a playoff berth.
Deerfield Beach, meanwhile, needed a victory to keep its postseason dreams alive.
When it was over, the Bucks were the ones celebrating after hanging on for a hard-fought 21-14 win over the previously unbeaten Paladins.
The Bucks' victory, combined with Taravella's 31-7 win over Coral Springs, means there will be a 3-way tiebreaker on Monday to decide which District 11-8A teams advance to the postseason. The district title is also at stake.Along with the playoff implications, Friday's game was also a showcase between two of Broward County's top running backs—Deerfield Beach's Brandon Powell and South Plantation's Alex Collins, one of the nation's top prospects who has verbally committed to Miami.
Both played well, but it was Powell—a junior who also saw time on defense—that made his mark.
The junior finished with 21 carries for 147 yards and accounted for all three of the Bucks' (5-3, 4-1) touchdowns. He also recovered a late fumble that paved the way for the eventual game-winning score.
"This is huge. It's huge for the whole team," Powell said. "Coach [Allen Jackson] was pushing us this whole week. Even though we had a game on Monday, we had to get through this whole week because we had a big game, the biggest game of our lives, [Friday]. We were playing against the No. 1 back in the nation…and our defense played good, everybody played good and we came out with the W. It's big."
After Deerfield built a 14-3 halftime lead on the strength of a 2-yard touchdown run and a 58-yard scoring run from Powell, South Plantation found itself keeping pace thanks in part to the strong leg of kicker Zack Leatherman.
Leatherman, who hit a 42-yard field goal late in the second quarter, connected on a 44-yarder with 4:39 left in the third, cutting Deerfield's lead down to a touchdown.
Collins then tied it on the first play of the fourth quarter, scoring from 1-yard out and punching it in on the two-point conversion.
But Collins, who finished with 24 carries for 154 yards, fumbled on the Paladins' next drive.
It was Powell that came up with the loose ball deep inside South Plantation (8-1, 4-1) territory, and six plays later, it was Powell that scored on a 2-yard run with 5:44 remaining.
"We had two drive stall inside the 20 and you can't play a good team and give them the short porch," said South Plantation coach Doug Gatewood. "We're not good enough to not play at our best and beat a good team. We've been getting away with it a little bit lately, and it caught up with us. It's going to be tough for us. We just have to be ready [Monday]. It's a horrible situation."