North Broward quarterback David Vozzola looks for an open receiver in a game against Coral Glades. (Photo: Morgan Sherman)

North Broward entered as heavy favorites, looking forward to a showdown with Key West High School in the Gold Coast conference playoffs next Friday night. But things did not go as planned when the Eagles traveled to then 3-5 Pembroke Pines Charter in the final game of the regular season. It was a loss nobody saw coming. The Jaguars had won just one conference game against Inlet Grove, losing also to Coral Glades (a team North Broward beat 35-12 on the road). Certainly it could serve as a wakening in anticipation of the playoffs. Or, it could hurt North Broward, one outcome the Eagles can’t let happen.

The Eagles were coming off of a slaughter of a relatively solid football team in Glades Day on homecoming, winning 62-20 on their home turn. But something turned off against Pembroke Pines Charter that North Broward had previously had in most of their games this season. They simply didn’t have that ‘it’. What is that ‘it’? Well, ‘it’ is something Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski talks about all time, ‘it’ is different for every team.

For North Broward, maybe ‘it’ was the defense, giving up 34 points to the Jaguars in this contest, after allowing teams to an average of just over 13 points per game in each of their first three road games, which were all wins. Maybe ‘it’ was turnovers, in which North Broward had three of those in the fourth quarter alone, including an interception on the final desperation drive of the game. Was ‘it’ the offense, which despite putting up 27 points, was expected to display a show on a Pembroke Pines Charter defense that had allowed at least 30 points in all but one of their conference games this season, including mustering 61 points to Key West.

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But overall, ‘it’ is a mystery. ‘It’ is the same mystery that made Coach K’s far superior Duke team consumed with loads of five-star talent lose to Mercer in round one of the 2014 NCAA tournament. ‘It’ is the same mystery that made Florida State lose on the road to 2-4 Georgia Tech just last week. But one thing is certain, ‘it’ can’t define a team’s season, certainly not North Broward’s.

The Eagles have played too well this year to turn around, to fold, to wave the white flag now. Just two years ago, North Broward had won just a single game, not even grasping the sniff of a playoff game. Now, the Eagles are entering their second playoff game in the last two years, an accomplishment one on the North Broward Prep campus would find ‘out of reach’ previously. Not to mention, North Broward still went 3-1 away from home this season, and in their three losses, were in all but one game until the very game. The Eagles were brutally crushed last season against Key West, appearing outmatched. This year, they were a few plays away from defeating the Conchs.

How about the adversity the Eagles have overcome this season? North Broward followed up both of their losses earlier in the year against McCarthy and Key West with wins, 32-20 on the road against Inlet Grove after losing to the Conchs, and 27-7 at Saint Andrews after losing to Archbishop. The injuries the Eagles had were killer, as well, losing defensive linemen Ted Arthur, Kenny Kenningsen, Troy Efird, and senior running back Andrew Sierra all at one time. But let me bring up that Rex Nottage’s team kept chugging along.

They didn’t let it faze them. Underclassmen backups like Bradley Cooper and Christian Paillet stepped up their game, while already established starters like Dymitri McKenzie, Kirby Burns, and Kallen Jennings stepped their games up to an outstanding level, star status. Unlike other teams would have, the Eagles stayed afloat and more. They lost just two games on the year despite all their injuries, and while most of their stays were out, they faced three road games, which we’ve learned that anything could happen on the road in High School football.

But a small academic private school’s football team has gone head-to-head with powerhouses Key West and Archbishop McCarthy. They’ve taken down public schools with over 1,000 kids per grade like Coral Glades, and they’ve put North Broward Prep football on the map. Without the surplus enrollment, without the dominant athletic brand name, and without a team with 50+ players on it. The Eagles have put together the perfect blend of talent and hard work to develop a successful culture. One loss can’t define the season, and that is something North Broward must prevent next week.

So, whatever ‘it’ is, North Broward has had it. They’ve had it all season long, but lost ‘it’ last week. They will gain ‘it’ back this week because they’ve done it all season—faced controversy and conquered it.

North Broward Prep will travel to Key West for the Gold Coast conference semi-finals next Friday night with a trip to the championship game on the line. There’s no doubt that it will be tough, and they will face tons of controversy throughout the contest. But will they prevail, will they have ‘it,’, and which North Broward team will show up? Will it be the team that took down 2014 state runner-up Glades Day by 42 points, or will it be the team that was shockingly upset by Pembroke Pines Charter?

Only time will tell.