A sad rerun
Lakeland (15-0) reprises ’06 title win over St. Thomas
ORLANDO — The last time this happened in a state championship game for St. Thomas Aquinas, it was against the same school.
As familiar state foes met again for the first time in a decade, St. Thomas, which has won seven titles following that epic 2006 doubleovertime defeat at the hands of Lakeland, lost in a final for the first time since.
The Lakeland Dreadnaughts, ranked 44th nationally by MaxPreps, beat error-plagued Aquinas, ranked as high as ninth, 33-20 in the Class 7A title game at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium on Friday night.
For Lakeland, their first championship since that historic 45-42 bout 12 years ago puts an exclamation point on a 15-0 season. Junior running back Demarkcus Bowman ran for 211 yards and a touchdown while Jaharie Martin had two rushing scores for the Dreadnaughts.
Losing two fumbles, missing a pair of field goals and turning it over on downs on a fourth-quarter red-zone try, the Raiders (13-2) missed a chance to tie Jacksonville Bolles for the state record for total championships (11).
Early in the fourth quarter, down 26-14, St. Thomas missed a chance to cut into the deficit, but after a thirddown sack set up fourth-and-13 from the 14-yard line, running back Daniel Carter dropped a screen pass.
Martin’s second touchdown extended the Lakeland lead to three scores. Curt Casteel would hit The’Andris Freeman for a touchdown with under two minutes to play, but it would be too little, too late as an onside kick attempt was ruled out of bounds as Jordan Battle was up against a sideline as he recovered it.
As Aquinas initially battled back from a 10-0 halftime deficit, the Raiders and Dreadnaughts played to a wild back-and-forth to start the second half.
St. Thomas started with the ball, but Casteel fumbled the ball away. Lakeland wouldn’t retain possession for long, though. Dontae Lunan forced a fumble on the following play and Anthony Solomon recovered it. The Raiders turned the second chance into their first score as Casteel redeemed himself, scoring on a 15-yard run.
Aquinas appeared set to build momentum, but Lakeland’s Fenley Graham returned the ensuing kickoff back 99 yards for a touchdown to put the Dreadnaughts back up 10, 17-7. Doing the high-five-beforecrossing-the-goal-line celebration, Lakeland was penalized ahead of the kickoff that followed.
The Raiders would respond again. A 44-yard pass from Casteel to Marcus Rosemy set up Daniel Carter’s 5-yard touchdown run to pull them back within three at 17-14. Lakeland, after extending the ensuing drive with a 68-yard pass on third-and-25, settled for a field goal that made it 20-14 after highly-touted tight end
The first half was marred by missed opportunities for the Raiders. None greater than when they had the ball at the 1-yard line on third down, were called for false start, got sacked and then missed a 30-yard field goal.
It was one of two missed field goals for Aquinas in the first half, and that one was followed by an 80-yard touchdown run from DeMarkcus Bowman to put Lakeland ahead 7-0 early in the second quarter. Before halftime, the Dreadnaughts knocked in a field goal to cap a long drive where they pounded Aquinas with the running game.
Lakeland had a touchdown to Zipperer wiped away on its second drive. An illegal formation call brought back what would’ve been a 74-yard score on a short pass.
Earlier Friday, Cardinal Gibbons made Broward County 1 for 1 in 2018 state football titles, topping Citra North Marion 48-10 in the Class 5A game. ChaminadeMadonna faces King’s Academy in the Class 3A final, a 10 a.m. kickoff on Saturday morning.
St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Jamal Cooney is tackled by Lakeland’s Quadir Hall during their 7A state championship game Friday night at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
St. Thomas Aquinas’ Daniel Carter sprints ahead of several Lakeland defenders in the 7A state final game.
St. Thomas Aquinas coach Jason Taylor shouts instructions to his team during Friday night’s 7A title game.