After last weekend's thrilling 22-20 win over West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer in its Florida Class 4A semifinal, many had penciled in a state championship for No. 11 Seffner (Fla.) Armwood.
Saturday's game against Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln was just a formality.
Apparently Lincoln didn't get the memo.
After an extremely sloppily-played game, plagued by penalties, dropped passes and a number of turnovers in a slightly soggy Orlando, it was a 37-yard field goal with 9 seconds remaining by Lincoln kicker Carlos Gaston that sent the Tallahassee fans into euphoria, as the Trojans stunned Armwood, 17-14.
It was a remarkable turn of events for a team that started its season plagued by injuries and a 3-4 record.
"We're Lincoln," head coach Yusuf Shakir told reporters through tears after the game. "We've got Trojan pride. We were banged up early in the year, but I knew once we got everyone back, we were going to be special."
And special they were, although it didn't always look that way Saturday afternoon.
The first half was a clinic in how not to play offense for both teams, as the penalty yards and miscues racked up. Lincoln had just 2 yards of total offense in the first quarter; 12 yards in the first half.
Television announcers even quipped that the head official was getting more air time than they were.
But Lincoln found itself tied 7-7 at the half, thanks to the trifecta play of Javorius "Buck" Allen, who blocked an Armwood field goal attempt, scooped up the loose football and scrambled down the field for a 45-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Armwood tied the game on a 4-yard run by Matt Jones, and then Jones broke free on Armwood's first offensive play of the second half for a 79-yard score to lead 14-7.
Armwood looked like it was going to put the game away, but a wide-open receiver dropped the ball on what would likely have been another touchdown. Lincoln capitalized on the swing of momentum and its defense shut down the Armwood threat for the rest of the game.
Then, quarterback Ronald Butler showed one flash of offensive brilliance, hitting sophomore Reggie Davis for a 56-yard gain. Two plays later, he kept it himself on a 1-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 14.
But the game came down to the leg of the senior kicker, who was cool and collected before hitting the biggest kick of his career.
"I knew I could make it," Gaston told reporters. "I make that kick every day in practice. It didn't faze me."
Armwood (14-1) had 268 yards, 147 of which were attributed to Jones's rushing. Lincoln (11-4) gained just 121 yards in the game, but 100 came when it mattered - in the last quarter.
Shakir, meanwhile, knew the importance of the win to his team. And with a young team returning - he joked that his players had more work to do after taking Christmas break - the lessons of this season may prove invaluable.
"It shows you've got to keep fighting no matter how hard it gets," Shakir said. "You've got to keep fighting."
For complete Texas coverage, including in-depth breakdowns of all the state title games, visit TheOldCoach.com.
Class 4A-DI: No. 74 Lake Travis 27, Denton Ryan 7
Quarterback Michael Brewer gained 292 total yards and rushed for two touchdowns as No. 74 Austin (Texas) Lake Travis won its fourth consecutive state title, beating Denton (Texas) Ryan.
Lake Travis (14-2) became the third team in Texas to win four state titles in a row, joining Sealy (1994-97 in Class 3A) and Celina (1998-2001 in Class 2A).
Brewer, who has committed to Texas Tech, completed 14-of-22 passes for 211 yards and ran for 81. He rushed for two touchdowns in the first half to help the Cavaliers jump out a 17-0 halftime lead.
Lake Travis, who had a 48-game winning streak snapped in the third week of the season, has won 24 playoff games in a row, one shy of the state record.
Denton Ryan (15-1), playing in its fifth championship game since 2000, did not pick up a first down until early in the third quarter.
"We wanted to go undefeated, but our main goal was to win state," Lake Travis junior receiver Griffin Gilbert said. "To push through that first loss and all the injuries we went through just shows how great of a team we are this season."