ORLANDO - The St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders parlayed an outstanding defense with tremendous offensive plays to win the 5A state title, 29-7 over defending state champion Tampa Plant at the Citrus Bowl.
The Raiders (15-0), who failed to make it to title game last year, more than made up for it with a solid effort against a quality Plant (12-3) team.
The Raiders got on the board first, using a big play to set up a field by Nolan Bieck from 28 yards out at 8:16 mark of the first quarter.
Bieck once again game the Raiders a second score with :36 seconds left in the first quarter when he converted from 31 yards out.
The Panthers took the lead with 7:33 when James Wilder Jr., bulled his way into the endzone from 8 yards out.
St. Thomas took the lead back with 1:31 left in the half on a 31-yard pass from Jake Rudock to FSU-commit Rashad Greene, who made a tremendous catch.
The Raiders extended the lead to 20-7 when Fred Coppett took off 92 yards with :19 left in the first half. It was after the Panthers stopped the clock for a timeout.
Bieck connected from 37 yards out to extend the Raiders lead 23-7 with 1:09 left in the third quarter.
The Raiders moved out to a 29-7 lead with 7:04 left in the game when Greene raced 64 yards with a Rudock pass.
FIRST QUARTER NOTES
* St. Thomas won the toss and will defer to the second half.
* Plant makes a mistake by fielding a kickoff out of bounds deep in their own territory and then have penalty that backs them up to the 8.
* FIRST MENTION: James Wilder is big and strong and talented. He is stopped short of a first down.
* Jake Rudock to Phil Dorsett for 42 yards and a first and goal at the 9.
* Plant's defense holds and forces a field goal.
* Alabama bound QB Philip Ely and FSU bound RB James Wilder Jr. run the offensive show for the Panthers.
* St. Thomas senior LB Michael Paen is a big play kid.
* People are still waiting for Wilder to bust that big one. The Raiders have note yielded a 100-yard rusher this year.
* Big penalty against the Raiders will keep the drive going. Two plays, 30 penalty yards against STA.
* Ely wasn't suppose to play because of an injury, but looks plenty mobile and agile so far.
* Grant Van Aman misses a 30 yard field goal. You don't get a lot of chances against a team like St. Thomas!
* Fred Coppett takes off for 64 yards to the 9 and a first down.
* Plant's defense has let up two long plays, but has been tough in the red zone. They force another field goal attempt.
* St. Thomas making a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes.
* Plant gets a long kick return and start in St. Thomas territory. The Raiders are living on the edge, so far.
SECOND QUARTER NOTES
* Cole Champion is a stud! Comes up with a huge play for the Raiders - on Mr, Wilder!
* Rudock (Iowa) to Rashad Greene (FSU) for a big gain.
* Devin Zinkosky (6-3, 235, Sr.) sacks Rudock and senior Bobby Richardson comes up big on the next play.
* Plant holds the Raiders again, forcing a punt.
* Junior DL Jelani Hamilton (6-5, 220, Jr.) is a force and will be highly recruited next year.
* Ely and Austin Aikens team up for a44-yard gain into St. Thomas territory.
* Aiken to the 8 first and goal Plant.
* St. Thomas just wastes a 79 yard run by Jamal Wilson. Penalty!
* Plant up front is tough with Wilder, Michael Dvornik, Bobby Richardson.
* Rudock is NOT having one of his best games of the season.
* Plant has a 7-6 lead and they are trying to run clock with Wilder. Can't blame them.
* Hamilton with another big sack for the Raiders.
* Rudock to Greene for a crucial first down to the Plant 34.
* St. Thomas is still making too many mistakes.
* Champion and Paen have been trying to get more physical with a huge Wilder.
* Tevin Allen comes up with a TD saving breakup for St. Thomas, forcing the Panthers to punt.
THIRD QUARTER NOTES
* The Raiders com out running on the first two plays of the third quarter.
* Junior safety Drew Madhu (6-1, 190) makes a big play for the Panthers.
* While it may not be Rudock's night so far, keep in mind he has had 2 potential TD passes dropped!
* Ely comes out and immediately hits junior Daniel Casselli with a pass into Raider territory.
* A change of pace back for the Panthers is Calvin Mann (5-9, 175).
* Kenneth Hankerson makes a very crucial play for the Raiders.
* Wilder is on defense and making plays - like usual.
* Rudock scampers for 10 yards and a first down. If he starts running with success, it's another avenue the Panthers have to worry about.
* Plant is forcing Rudock into making throws he normally doesn't make.
* On third down and 12, Rudock runs and just picks up a first down at the Panthers' 14.
* Junior LB Mike Tate with a huge sack on Rudock.
* Yet another St. Thomas penalty keeps the Panthers' drive alive.
FOURTH QUARTER NOTES
* Marcus Roberson comes up with a key interception in he endzone to stop a Plant drive.
* Hunter Coddington picks off Ely to end a drive.
* Junior Dami Ayoola has a rare carry. This is a player who will really make a difference for the Raiders.
* St. Thomas has 13 penalties tonight. I think when you look at the game back, many relly were not needed to be called.
* Senior Nick Sanders replaces Ely at QB and is sacked by senior Thomas Kelleher.
* Illinois-bound punter Justin Duvernois just nailed a 71-yarder, backing the Panthers up.
TAMPA PLANT 0 7 0 0 - 7
ST. THOMAS 6 14 3 6 - 29
ST - Nolan Bieck 28 FG, 8:30 (1), 3-0
ST - Nolan Bieck 31 FG, :36 (1), 6-0
TP - James Wilder, Jr., 8 run (Grant Van Aman kick), 7:13 (2), 7-6
ST - Rashad Green 34 pass from Jake Rudock (James Lagamma kick), 1:31 (2), 13-7
ST - Fred Coppet 92 run (Nolan Bieck kick), :19 (2), 20-7
ST - Nolan Bieck 37 fg, 1:09 (3), 23-7
ST - Rashad Greene 74 pass from Jake Rudock (kick blocked), 7:04 (4), 29-7
HERALD STATEWIDE INFORMATION