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5A FINAL: St. Thomas Aquinas 56, Lakeland 7!

ORLANDO -Last year at this time, many felt that if St. Thomas Aquinas stayed healthy, the Raiders had a chance to be a good team this coming season. On Friday night, this football program that waltzed through the 2008 campaign, became a great team.

The Raiders finished a perfect season at 15-0 with an impressive 56-7 win over previously unbeaten Lakeland and a second consecutive 5A state title. More importantly, the Raiders captured the national championship, which is the fourth consecutive for the state of Florida and the first ever for a Broward County team.

"I felt coming in that if we played our kind of game, we would have a chance to accomplish some great things," said coach George Smith. "The key was jumping out in front and gaining the momentum."

It didn't take the Raiders long to establish a tempo in the 5A state title game. With 11:07 left in the opening quarter, senior Ryan Becker found a wide open Gabrisson Holmes, and the Purdue commitment took it 53 yards for a score and a 7-0 lead.

The Raiders extended the lead to 14-0 when junior running back James White took it 45 yards with 5:14 left in the opening quarter and a 15-0 advantage.

St. Thomas extended the lead to 21-0 with 3:29 left in the opening quarter when Ryan Becker took it in from the 1. The play was set up by a 47-yard run by junior Gio Bernard. Seconds later, senior Conor O'Neill picked a Jarrod Haggins ball out of the air and returned it for a 28-0 first quarter advantage.

The Raiders took a 35-0 lead at the half when Becker found senior Dwayne Difton from 12 yards out.

The Dreadnaughts broke out of the gate quickly, and when Javares McRoy caught an 86-yard touchdowndown pass from Jarred Haggins, it was 35-7 with 11:37 left in the third quarter.

St. Thomas came right back as White had a 48-yard run deep inside Lakeland territory, and then with 10:06 left, senior Beau Bucci took it in from the 8 and a commanding 42-7 lead.

The Raiders continued to pour it on when Becker once again found the endzone. This time to Duron Carter from 5 yards out and a 49-7 lead with 5:18 lead.

Senior Ronnie Kennedy ended the scoring on an 8-yard run late in the fourth quarter.

Lakeland 0 0 7 0- 7
St. Thomas Aquinas 28 7 14 7-56
ST - Gabrisson Holmes 53 pass from Ryan Becker (Michael Palardy kick), 11:07 (1)
ST - James White 45 run (Michael Palardy kick), 5:14 (1), 14-0
ST - Ryan Becker 1 run (Michael Palardy kick), 3:29 (1), 21-0
ST - Conor O'Neill 20 int. return (Michael Palardy kick), 3:12 (1) 28-0
ST - Dwayne Difton 12 pass from Ryan Becker (Michael Palardy kick), 1:34 (2), 35-0
L - Javares McRoy 86 pass from Jarred Haggins (Aaron O'Brien kick), 11:37 (3), 35-7
ST - Beau Bucci 8 run (Michael Palardy kick), 10:06 (3), 42-7
ST - Duron Carter 5 pass from Ryan Becker (Michael Palardy kick), 5:18 (3), 49-7
ST - Ronnie Kennedy 8 run (Michael Palardy kick), 4:29 (4), 56-7

STATS
LAKELAND
RUSHING:

Steward Butler (12-8)

PASSING:
Jarred Haggins (3-13-1)

RECEIVING:
Javares McRoy (1-86)

ST. THOMAS
RUSHING:

Gio Bernard (8-104), James White (4-98)

PASSING:
Ryan Becker (8-11-0-100 yards)

RECEIVING:
Gabrison Holmes (2-67)

LARRY BLUSTEIN
lblustein@miamiherald.com

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Goody

Well, looks like that one's over early. Maybe Lakeland will mount a late fourth-quarter comeback a la St. Thomas in 2006?

LarryB

The Raiders are sitting on this 28-0 lead. They need to keep the intensity up. They have not done a thing on the past three posssessions.

George Richards

don't think so mr. goodie...this one is done and done...

DieHard 305 Fan

maybe this will shut all those rednecks up in Cental Florida now. I usually dont like to watch blowouts like that the total dominance that STA put on Lakeland last night, but I thoroughly enjoyed this 56-7, 4th qtr running clock one. Lakeland was totally dominated in every phase of the game and didn't even deserve to be on the field w STA. STA came out & destroyed Lakeland from the 2nd play on & didn't let up till the final whistle.
STA locked up the National Title w this blowout win & the debate will go on now as to who was the best South Florida team of all time '08 STA or '06/'07 Miami NW & it's a good argument. STA is an offensive machine that can score at will. Becker is an awesome QB plus they have 4 RBs & 4 WRs that along w Becker will all play major college ball. Defensively, their well coached and play really well as a team. They stop the run, dominate the los, then come after you on the pass rush on 3rd/long. It would be a great game but unfortunately all it can be is a great debate.
As for Lakeland this game will haunt them for yrs to come. Bill Castle is a great coach for Lakeland and has won 6 State Titles but you cant BS your players on how good they are now after what happened to them on the field last night. Bradenton Manatee used to have a powerhouse football program until Southridge put a 69-36 smackdown on them in '93 & they haven't been the same dominant team since. It wouldn't suprise me if the same thing happens to Lakeland as well. One things for sure though, if Lakeland & STA meet up again, Lakeland will know the the second they step on the field who the boys are (them) & who the men are (STA)
Way to represent South Fl in the State Finals STA & congrats for keeping the National Champs trophy in South Florida as well. As far as Best HS Team ever, that's for you & the Bulls faithful to debate.

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