Moore Haven finishes with 8-2 record; makes playoffs for second straight year
MOORE HAVEN — With college football options on the table for both of them, Conner Thomas and Andrew Fish could be back on the grid iron next fall, but their high school careers at Moore Haven – where the pair of offensive linemen from the Brighton Reservation helped the Terriers to two outstanding seasons the past two years – are done.
As juniors last season, Thomas and Fish were key components as starters on a team that went undefeated in the regular season and won an FHSAA playoff game for the first time in 20 years.
This season they were again prominent figures as starters on the O line as the Terriers went 8-1 in the regular season, which included victories against rivals Glades Day and LaBelle, and they earned a No. 1 regional seed in the Class 2A playoffs.
For the second straight year, however, Moore Haven’s season ended with a home playoff loss to Champagnat Catholic from football powerhouse Miami-Dade County. The good news for Moore Haven is that this year’s playoff exit was a far more impressive showing for the Terriers than a year ago when Champagnat cruised to a 47-0 win.
This time around the Terriers gave Champagnat all it could handle right up until the end of the 2A regional semifinal. Champagnat, the defending state champions, emerged with a hard-fought 29-16 win.
Unlike a year ago, Moore Haven wasn’t overwhelmed. Led by Thomas, Fish and Robert Harris, also from Brighton, the offensive line helped the Terriers’ runners find open space and generate some lengthy drives.
The defense played a key role, too, including a sack by Kelton Hallback and an interception deep in Champagnat territory by Garrett Palladino that led to a one-yard touchdown plunge from Lorenzo Sampson, who was all over the field on both sides of the ball. The touchdown gave Moore Haven an 8-7 lead.
Champagnat led 13-8 at halftime and picked up a pivotal touchdown early in the third quarter on a fumble recovery, but much to the credit of Moore Haven, the Terriers didn’t flinch. They responded on the next series with an 18-yard touchdown up the gut by Nate Crawford that trimmed the deficit to 21-16. Champagnat scored early in the fourth quarter and Moore Haven never got back in the end zone again.
Two weeks before the playoff game, Moore Haven finished its regular season in style with a stirring 54-48 win against LaBelle on senior night for about 15 Terriers, including Thomas and Fish.
“I knew we were going to win, but I knew it was going to be a battle; it always is. It’s a rivalry game. LaBelle had a good season this year; so did we,” Thomas said. “Monday at practice we knew, we felt it. We knew it was going to be a hard game; we knew we were going to pull it out because this is a strong team.”
“This was fun,” Fish said after the victory.
While Moore Haven says goodbye to its captain Thomas and its second biggest player Fish, the team will still have Brighton representation with Robert Harris back as a starter and Donovan Harris, a sophomore halfback whose playing time increased during the season. In fact, Donovan was the go-to guy on a key play in the first quarter against Champagnat. On a fourth-down and 1 at the Champagnat 32-year line, Donovan took a handoff and, following blocks from Thomas, Fish and Rob Harris, he surged ahead for a 15-yard gain and a first down. That was about the extent of his ball-carrying duties for the night, but it provided a glimpse of what might be ahead for next season.