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December 7, 2013
South Dade knocks off Gators, will play for 8A title
HOMESTEAD - Khalil Render will go down as a South Dade legend.
The dual-threat quarterback had 356 all-purpose yards (217 pass, 139 rush) and accounted for five touchdowns (3 passing TDs, 2 rushing TDs) in his team's 37-10 blowout win over Palm Beach Gardens in the Class 8A state semifinals.
With the win, South Dade (13-1) reached its first state title game in school history.
Early on, it wasn't a sure thing for South Dade, which went into its first offensive possession down 7-0 to Palm Beach Gardens.
Led by QB J.P. Caruso, a verbal commit to Appalachian State, the Gators engineered a 13-play, 70-yard drive that ended with his 15-yard touchdown pass on a corner route to senior TE/LB Caleb Perez with 5:27 left in the first quarter.
The Bucs tied the game at 7-7 with 1:11 left in the first quarter after they finished off an 11-play, 80-yard drive that was highlighted by a blistering 6-yard touchdown run from Render.
The Gators, coming off a shocking win over Miramar in the Class 8A regional final, got a defensive interception from junior safety Anthony Lane, who picked off a pass from Render and ran it to the Bucs 21-yard line with 9:42 left in the second quarter.
But the Bucs defense held the Gators to a three-and-out on their ensuing possession. As a result, K Steven Olsen connected on a 40-yard field goal to give Palm Beach Gardens (9-5 final record) a 10-7 lead.
It proved to be a wake-up call for South Dade, which reeled off 30 unanswered points the rest of the way.
On the very next possession, Render had runs of 1 and 25 yards before launching off a 54-yard touchdown pass to senior wideout Tarviant Williams with 6:54 left in the half.
South Dade, up 14-10 at that point, got another score off a 34-yard touchdown pass from Render to sophomore wideout Khevani Francois. The play, which extended the lead to 21-10, was set up by an interception caught by senior Mario Mezier at the Palm Beach Gardens 24-yard line.
The game's biggest play came on South Dade's next offensive possession, when Render busted through the Palm Beach Gardens front seven for a 66-yard touchdown run that gave his team a 28-10 with 1:52 left.
South Dade went into halftime with a 31-10 lead after K Luis Zitzun connected on a 31-yard FG as time expired.
The game's final score came with 5:27 left in the third quarter, when Render connected on a 37-yard touchdown pass to Francois.
"He keeps getting better and better each week," South Dade head coach Nathaniel Hudson said of Render. "This kid is extremely focused and poised. He has what it takes to help us win big games."
As a result of South Dade's biggest win in its 60-year history, they will facing off against Apopka (14-0) in the Class 8A state championship game next Saturday night (7 p.m. kickoff time) at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
"All we wanted was an opportunity to accomplish our goal," Hudson said. "Words can't describe how we feel about making history with this win. Now we're going to go back to work and prepare for our next game. If we focus on the little things and execute on our plays, then I think we'll have a good shot at winning the state title."