The South Dade Buccaneers were hoping to have some momentum heading into the Class 8A state playoffs.
Instead, they are reeling with three straight losses and will look to use their longest losing streak in three years as motivation.
Chezzy Mathews rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns for the Bucs who sat a handful of starters in a 29-24 loss to Hialeah in the regular season finale.
“The bigger goal was to make sure we were going to have our guys upright and we also understand we are going to be 0-0 going into the playoffs,” head coach Nate Hudson said. “From a coaching standpoint, we’re good. We’ll get the kids right. They understood what we were going up against this week.”
South Dade (7-3) was the top-ranked team in Class 8A before losses to Carol City 33-17, Palmetto 46-42, and Hialeah.
“We are confident when we are at full strength and we are our own worst enemy if (a long playoff run) doesn’t happen,” Hudson said. “I feel good about it. The most important was us being healthy. We wanted to win at the end of the day, but we are 0-0 now. A new season starts.”
The Bucs are the 5-seed in the Region 4 playoffs and will play at Davie Western (7-2) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the regional quarterfinals with the winner facing the winner of the 1-seed Palmetto (9-1) and 8-seed Taravella (5-5) game next week.
“We needed to see this (losing streak) because it’s the playoffs and time to play now,” said Mathews, who has rushed for 769 yards and eight touchdowns this season. “We here to play. We had a lot of players out, but we’re going to be back at full health. It should be a good show.”
Senior quarterback Kelvin Durham, who has accounted for over 1,400 yards and 21 touchdowns in eight games, was one of the starters who did not play along with top offensive linemen Jonathan Denis and Jose Mirabal, defensive end Tyler Johnson, and defensive backs Jalin Wilson and Harry Henderson.
The passing game struggled with Durham sidelined as Trevon Sanders and Alejandro Urrea combined for 3-of-8 passing for six yards and an interception. Sanders did add 88 yards on the ground.
Mathews put last week’s pivotal late fumble behind him with a strong game. His touchdowns from 19 and 36 yards out gave the Bucs a 14-7 lead.
“I owed the team one from the Palmetto game and we’re going to take it on from there,” Mathews said.
After a touchdown by Fred Eaford, Hialeah attempted an onside kick, which was returned 48 yards for a touchdown by Freddie Bruce. Sanders’s two-point run extended South Dade’s lead to 22-13 just before halftime.
South Dade senior standout Jaiden Francois, who tied a Dade County record with 12 interceptions last season, intercepted his first pass of the season in the second quarter.
The Bucs’ offense was blanked in the second half as D’Shawn Trowers found the end zone once and twice more on two-point conversion runs giving Hialeah a 29-22 lead.
South Dade cut the deficit to 29-24 with 10:31 left in the fourth quarter on a safety, but were unable to take the lead as its final drive with 3:09 left, beginning at their own 20, only resulted in five yards on four straight runs, turning the ball over on downs and Hialeah took a knee twice ending the game.
“A lot of our young guys played tonight,” Hudson said. “That’s what we wanted just in case somebody goes down. We’re not going to use any excuses. We had our opportunities to win the game and the ball didn’t fall our way.”
South Dade (7-3) 14 8 0 2 - 24
Hialeah (7-3) 7 6 16 0 – 29
South Dade – Mathews 19 run (Navia kick)
Hialeah – D. Trowers 5 run (Calderon kick)
South Dade – Mathews 36 run (Moreno kick)
Hialeah – Eaford 26 pass from Tolbert (kick failed)
South Dade – Bruce 48 kick return (Sanders run)
Hialeah – D. Trowers 4 run (D. Trowers run)
Hialeah – Tolbert 4 run (D. Trowers run)
South Dade – Safety
RUSHING: South Dade: Mathews 10-100, Sanders 15-88, Thomas 9-41, Urrea 1--1. Hialeah: D. Trowers 17-122, Celestine 3-7, Tolbert 4-5.
PASSING: South Dade: Sanders 2-7-1, 5, Urrea 1-1-0, 1. Hialeah:
Tolbert: 12-18-1, 142.
RECEIVING: South Dade: Mathews 2-8, Thomas 1--2. Hialeah: Donaldson 4-41, Celestine 2-29, Eaford 1-26, T. Mitchell 1-24, D. Trowers 2-20, Valcourt 1-2.