American Heritage cruises behind Mark Fletcher’s 3 TDs
PLANTATION, FL – What looked like a first-round blowout for American Heritage on Monday night turned into a heated playoff game with Inlet Grove that ended abruptly after tensions boiled over in the fourth quarter.
In a physical and sometimes overly emotional game, Heritage simply had too many weapons to hold.
Mark Fletcher rushed for three touchdowns and Brandon Inniss caught a touchdown pass and set two school records in the Patriots’ 43-7 win over Inlet Grove in Class 2M-Region 3.
After Heritage created a timed situation on Kenly Clairicin’s long fumble return for a touchdown, the teams began pushing and shoving the ensuing kickoff to open the fourth quarter.
The incident erupted on the fringes of Heritage, but things almost got out of hand.
The situation, however, did not escalate as officials and security maintained order. The clock continued to tick and the full 12 minutes of the quarter passed without further play.
There was also a mouthful in the stands.
Shortly after time ran out, the Inlet Grove team exited the front door. Shortly after, American Heritage left through the farthest door for their locker room.
“It’s playoff football now,” Heritage coach Mike Smith said. “I said to these guys, this is what you should expect, especially playing in these early rounds right now. This is what you should expect. You will get the best out of everyone “They’re going to come and do anything. They’re going to bait you. We need to do a better job of getting away and keeping our kids focused.”
Heritage (10-1) is the region’s first seed and Inlet Grove (7-3) is the eighth seed.
The game was originally scheduled for last Friday, but was moved to Monday due to Hurricane Nicole.
The schedule change creates a shorter preparation week for Heritage, who will next face fourth seed Boynton Beach, who beat fifth seed Kings Academy on Monday.
The Patriots will be at home again and the game will likely be played on Saturday. But it’s not official, as the schools could agree to play on Friday. However, that doesn’t seem likely.
“Right now it looks like we’re going to play on Saturday,” Smith said. “It’s a short week. If you go on Friday, then you’re really going to have a short week. You have 1-1/2 days to prepare, to be honest with you. You will have a guided tour.
The way the game ended Monday reminded Heritage to keep their cool and not risk losing players to suspensions.
“That’s your first concern,” Smith said. “It doesn’t take much. Referee judgment is required. Like I said to some of these guys: it’s their career. Their career is over. Senior 27, if a guy does the wrong thing, it doesn’t matter how you want to interpret it, whether they started it or we started it, it doesn’t matter. That’s all the ref said, and you leave a lot of luck there.
As for the game itself, Heritage was in full control, if not particularly sharp.
“I felt like we weren’t close to playing at our level tonight,” Smith said. “I told these guys we’re not making excuses here. We didn’t play at our level tonight. Just sloppy. I didn’t like our efforts most of the time. Just the overall product. It’s not us. It wasn’t Legacy football.
Luckily for the Patriots, even on tough days they have two of the best players in the country to help them get them back.
Fletcher and Inniss, both committed to Ohio State, lead the charge on Monday.
Fletcher scored two touchdowns in the first quarter on runs for 40 and 11 yards. Byron Louis added a 4-yard TD run, making it 21-0.
Inlet Grove quarterback Carjuan Perkins scored on a 3-yard run to cut Heritage’s lead to 21-7 at halftime.
The Heritage defense sacked Perkins in the end zone for a safety early in the third quarter, and on his next possession Fletcher scored his third TD, on a 9-yard run.
Inniss’ 50+ yard catch and TD run made it 37-7 with 7:22 left.
With his big night, Inniss set the school season record for yards and receptions.
“I feel pretty good,” Inniss said. “I was talking with my dad earlier. I hadn’t played a full year at wide receiver since my freshman year. My second year was eight games. Last year, I played quarterback. So getting back into the groove and playing receiver all year, it feels really good to be back in the position that I love.
Clairicin’s recovery and Fumble score increased Heritage’s margin to over 35 points, and the clock began to slow.
But the tension on the ground continued to mount.
After the match, the coaching staff and administration harshly criticized the Heritage players, reminding them to stay focused and not get drawn into confrontations.
“I think it’s preparation for that,” Inniss said. “You really have to focus and pay attention to the details like coach Mike tells us every day. You can’t fall for it. We had moments where we almost broke down tonight. It’s tough. We have to get over that and keep going.”