OKEECHOBEE — Five minutes remained in a first half that had already been an impressive senior night game for Silas Madrigal.
The senior safety broke up a couple passes and made a handful of tackles, including two touchdown-saving stops, one coming when he dragged a Westwood ball carrier to the ground by his shirt at the seven-yard line.
But Madrigal’s highlight reel wasn’t finished. With 4:54 left before halftime and moments after a would-be interception slithered out of his hands, Madrigal regrouped and picked off a bomb.
This one didn’t get away as No. 23 in the black and purple caught the ball at the Okeechobee 14-yard line and calmly eluded a few opponents on a runback that netted 33 yards.
Madrigal and the rest of Okeechobee’s defense were a big reason why the underdog Brahmans held a 7-6 lead at halftime.
On Westwood’s first possession, Madrigal made two tackles and the Brahmans escaped with allowing only a field goal after the visitors had a first-and-goal.
Ditto on Westwood’s second possession as Madrigal made three tackles, including the shirt-grabbing takedown, and Westwood once again settled for three points despite a first-and-goal.
“It was by far his most productive game since our preseason game,” Okeechobee coach Ty Smith said. “Hopefully he continues to grow in the next two games as the year comes to a close. I love having him around.”
Westwood ended up spoiling the hosts’ senior night by rallying for a 27-7 win. Okeechobee’s only scoring came on its first possession of the game. The Brahmans won the following week, 48-40, against Glades to improve to 2-7 with the season finale set for Nov. 1 at Clewiston.
Before the senior night game started, Okeechobee honored about 20 of its players from the class of 2020, including Seminoles Madrigal and starting offensive lineman Kamani Smith, who was unable to play due to a knee injury he suffered in practice earlier in the week.
They were joined by family members, including their parents. Smith walked with his mom Suraiya and dad, Chaka, who is an assistant coach. Madrigal walked with his mom, Letty, and dad, Howard.
The PA announcer mentioned that Madrigal hopes to attend the University of Miami, the alma mater of his father.
Coach Smith, who was previously a longtime assistant coach in the program, praised the two Seminoles for their outstanding seasons and the improvements they’ve made.
The 6-foot-3, 370-pound Kamani Smith is in his fourth year of football at OHS, including the last three on the varsity squad. After working hard throughout the summer, Smith has been a starting tackle all season.
“He’s had a drastic improvement,” coach Smith said. “He put in his best summer in the last four years. His summer was fantastic. He’s improved a lot since his freshman year. He’s gotten bigger and stronger.”
During the offseason, OHS coaches discussed who should go where in the lineup. They figured Smith would do well at tackle, and they were right.
“Kamani is not one of our faster linemen, but he is our biggest lineman. We said this position would fit him best for what we’re doing, and it has worked out well,” coach Smith said.
While Kamani Smith has been a part of Brahman football for the past four years, Madrigal only joined the squad a year ago as a junior. Coach Smith wished Madrigal would have started football earlier, but he said Madrigal has gotten the most out of his two seasons.
“Silas has been one those who we’ve been excited about having the last two years,” the coach said. “He’s done multiple sports here, basketball, baseball and football. He’s been a pleasure to have. He’s one of those kids you love to have. He understands the game.”
Madrigal and Smith have excelled in the classroom, too. Both take college-level courses. In fact, Smith will be ahead of the game when he starts college because he expects to graduate this spring having already earned an associate degree from Indian River State College.
Smith said he won’t pursue playing football in college.
“This will probably be it for me because I don’t have a desire to play football in college, but I plan to further my education and hopefully I’ll get into FSU,” he said.
Smith used to play basketball, but says he’s “retired” now from the sport. But Madrigal, a guard, will be on the court again this winter for the Brahmans as they try to defend their district title.
Smith and Madrigal are the only Seminoles on the OHS football team. They said there’s nobody from the Tribe coming up through the program.
They explained that some kids they grew up with in Brighton who play football are at Moore Haven High School while others haven’t pursued the sport at Okeechobee.
“I don’t think a lot of kids that we grew up with were into football, and if they were, they quit,” Smith said.
But Smith and Madrigal are glad they are OHS football players; so is their coach.
“Both of them are special kids,” coach Smith said.