PLANT CITY -- He ran with a noticeable hobble.
But this is the Florida High School Athletic Association football playoffs, where it's win or go home.
So with his team peering down a historic victory, Braden River junior wide receiver Juwaan Jenkins shook off the injury to his leg to deliver a pivotal gallop to the end zone.
The Pirates used the fourth-quarter touchdown to build a two-score advantage at Plant City in Friday's Class 7A-Region 3 championship. Then their defense stymied the Raiders like it had for most of the game, allowing Braden River to peel off a 17-7 victory and propel the Pirates to their first-ever state semifinal.
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"I knew that no matter what kind of injury I have, no matter if I have a broken leg or whatever, if it took me to hobble into the end zone then that's what it took," Jenkins said.
Braden River (13-0) entered the region final having outscored opponents 292-36 in the first half. But it was Plant City (11-2) that
generated the first score when former IMG Academy standout T.J. Chase caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Raiders quarterback Corey King.
It came on Plant City's opening possession, which covered 68 yards in six plays.
And it caught Braden River's defense off guard.
"It was the complete opposite of our game plan," Braden River head coach Curt Bradley said. "We tried to stop the run with a light box and put two safeties back there."
After the defense shifted gears to prepare for Plant City chucking the ball around the field, linebacker Noah Arce halted Plant City's second drive with an interception. That allowed Braden River's offense to begin grooving.
Quarterback Jacob Huesman, who is heading to Florida International University next season, led the Pirates on a 10-play drive that was capped with DeShaun Fenwick's diving 2-yard touchdown reception with 8:30 remaining in the first half.
Kyle Thoma booted a 23-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter to give the Pirates a slight halftime edge at 10-7.
After the break, Jenkins woke up. Limited to just two catches for 13 yards after sustaining a leg injury in the first quarter, Jenkins caught five balls for 77 yards in the last two quarters.
His two biggest catches came on Braden River's pivotal fourth quarter drive that punctuated the victory.
First, he caught a pass from Huesman and galloped on a bum wheel for 32 yards.
Two plays later, Jenkins found himself wide open on a hitch route as Chase, who was locked on him in his two-way role of defensive back, vacated the area to add a helping hand in covering tight end Ryan Neuzil.
Huesman, who completed all 11 of his passing attempts in the second half, first looked to Neuzil over the middle before checking down to the unmarked Jenkins, who raced to pay dirt.
"I was just hoping Jake didn't throw the ball away," Jenkins said. "I'm like, 'Jake, I'm over here still.' They've been keying on Neuzil the whole game. They were calling his number out the whole game, so I just had to make sure I made plays when the ball was thrown my way."
The defense, which allowed 155 total yards of offense to Plant City in the first half, also stepped up. Braden River limited the Raiders to 51 passing yards and 16 rushing yards in the second half.
In addition, A.J. Moore and Demetrius Lawson added second-half interceptions as King finished with three.
"Every time we get an interception, it builds up momentum for our offense," Lawson said.
Now the Pirates will return to East Manatee County for the 7A state semifinals, where they'll host state power Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, which routed Hialeah Mater Academy 60-7 in the 7A-Region 4 championship on Friday.