December 10, 2010

Fantastic finishes: Florida finals set

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They called it a rematch. Or even a redo.

But after Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas was done messing with Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee Friday night, you really had to call it just a rout.

Aquinas rolled into the Florida Class 5A final with a convincing 31-7 victory.

It will meet Plant, a 48-6 winner over Lakeland.

And while Plant actually is the defending 5A champ, all many in Florida remember about 5A a year ago was Aquinas' stunning 28-20 loss to Manatee - a defeat that ended Aquinas' hopes for a second consecutive national championship.

"This feels amazing," Aquinas running back Dami Ayoola told the Sun Sentinel. "We didn't just do this for ourselves. We did it for last year's seniors and for all the people who came before us. This is a program built on tradition."

This is a program that's as good as it gets in the country. The victory was the school's 14th straight this season and 51st in its last 52 games.

And it was never in doubt.

Aquinas, No. 3 in this week's RivalsHigh Top 100, raced to a 17-0 lead, gave up a late first-half touchdown, but rolled in the second half over No. 28 Manatee.

Ayoola had 126 yards and two TDs, including a 51-yarder. Quarterback Jake Rudock completed 10 of 18 passes for 137 yards.

The defense may have been even better, holding Manatee's top player, running back Mike Blakely, to just 42 yards.

Aquinas still has a shot at the top spot. Of course, it still has some work to do.

Plant, which was No. 1 in the RivalsHigh preseason Top 100, fell out of the polls completely after a rough start. It's now found its stride. So much, in fact, it won easily without starting quarterback Phillip Ely, who was out with a back injury.

Plant used a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Eric Patterson to open the game, then just relied on Wilder, who finished with 216 yards.

Plant entered the week at No. 67 but figures to move up after dismantling No. 37 Lakeland in a game it was ahead 34-6 at the half and scored on its first eight possessions.

  • RivalsHigh take: The winners were as predicted as both Aquinas and Plant were expected to advance this week. But neither was expected to be as dominant as it was. Aquinas showed the focus of a champion in its win over Manatee - something it lacked at the end of last year. Plant, without Alabama commit Phillip Ely, rolled to a running clock victory over Lakeland. Again, running clock on Lakeland. Both teams are peaking at the right time and it should be a clash next weekend.
  • For a full game story on Aquinas-Manatee, check out this in the Sun Sentinel.

    For a full game story on Plant-Lakeland, check out this in the Tamba Tribune.

    No. 7 Dr. Phillips 37, Seminole 13

    Tampa (Fla.) Dr. Phillips earned a spot in the 6A title game.

    Running back Demetrius Hart earned a spot in the state record book.

    Hart ran for two touchdowns (his 49th and 50th of the season) to become the first player in state history to reach 300 points in a season as Dr. Phillips (14-0) rolled to a relatively easy victory.

    The triumph sets up a matchup with Miami (Fla.) Central.

    That figures to be a tight game. This one wasn't. Dr. Phillips scored on three of its first four possessions to put the game away.

  • RivalsHigh take: Dr. Phillips was able to break its second-round curse this season. Now it needs just one more win to show it belongs among the elite teams in the nation. This is one of the most talented teams in the country with multiple players ranked in the top of their position rankings. A game with Miami Central will be a great test.
  • For a full game story on Dr. Phillips-Seminole, check out this in the Orlando Sentinel.

    No. 11 Armwood 22, No. 12 Dwyer 20

    Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Dwyer thought it had a miracle finish - thought it had another trip to the Florida 4A final.

    It thought, simply put, that it hadn't left Armwood enough time when it scored a go-ahead touchdown with 19.6 seconds to go.

    Seffner (Fla.) Armwood, however, refused to let its perfect season end, completing two straight passes for 40 yards to set up Darrell Dudney's game-winning 44-yard field goal on the final play of the game.

    It was the final play of a back-and-forth game that saw a safety, a 95-yard fumble return for a touchdown and six lead changes. Or what you might expected when the No. 11 team in the RivalsHigh Top 100 meets up with the No. 12 team.

    No. 12 Dwyer thought it had the game won when quarterback Jacoby Brissett led his team on a 74-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 13-yard TD pass to Tommylee Lewis for a 20-14 lead with 19.6 to go.

    It wasn't enough against No. 11 Armwood, which advances into the final against unranked Lincoln, a 36-14 winner over Gainesville.

  • RivalsHigh take: The lone rematch that lived up to the hype this weekend saw Armwood avenge last season's embarrassing loss. It took a long field goal as time expires to do it, but it got the job done.
  • For a full game story on Armwood-Dwyer, check out this in the Tamba Tribune .

    No. 24 Central 30, Cypress Bay 27

    Miami (Fla.) Central's Devonta Freeman already was having a career game in the Florida Class 6A semifinal. But he wouldn't be satisfied until he made sure it wasn't the last game of his career.

    Freeman ran for 354 yards and three touchdowns but none of his 33 carries were as important as his game-winning score with 1:19 remaining to help Central earn a 30-27 victory over Cypress Bay.

    "I had a few more plays in me," Freeman told the Miami Herald. "I thank God for my teammates, my offensive line and my family. We're not done yet. This is unbelievable. It's unbelievable."

    The defense was unbelievable, too. It made the key stop.

    Cypress Bay led 24-21 and had the ball at the 3 after recovering a fumble but was unable to get into the end zone, settling instead for a 31-yard field goal. The defense then sealed the victory by recording a safety in the closing seconds.

  • RivalsHigh take: Regardless of the outcome of its game next week with Dr. Phillips, this is a banner season for the Rockets. After losing late to Georgia power Camden County earlier this season, the team dug deep and learned from the loss. It won games late and made defensive stops in doing so. The discipline improved as the year went on and Central will be rewarded with its trip to the final.
  • For a full game story on Dr. Phillips-Seminole, check out this in the Miami Herald.

    No. 38 Jefferson 28, St. Augustine 27

    Quentin Williams set records with his arm Friday night. He sent his team to the Class 3A state final with his legs.

    Tampa (Fla.) Jefferson became the third Tampa-area team to reach the state final when it literally inched its way past St. Augustine (Fla.) High.

    Williams, facing a fourth-and-inches late in the game, bullied his way for a first down. One play later, he forced his way into the end zone for the go-ahead score.

    "That was probably the play of the year," Jefferson coach Mike Fenton told the Tampa Tribune. "We've scored on so many long passes, but it came down to inches. We knew it was going to be a slug fest."

    Not that Williams didn't excel with his arm, too.

    Williams threw for 240 yards to help him go over 10,000 total yards for his career. He added two TD passes to give him 53 on the year, breaking the state's single-season record.

    He'll have a chance to add to both totals when Jefferson (14-0) faces Miami (Fla.) Norland. It will be his school's third trip to the final; it's still looking for its first title.

  • RivalsHigh take: A week after eliminating Pensacola from the playoffs, St. Augustine nearly downed Tampa Jefferson. The Dragons, however, rallied late and got the win. The usual pass-heavy team was able to gut out a game on the ground. Look for the aerial attack to be back in full effect next week.
  • For a full game story on Dr. Phillips-Seminole, check out this in the Tampa Tribune.

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