ORLANDO – For the third straight year, the St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders are on top of Florida in Class 7A.
For the second time in program history, the Raiders defeated Plant to win a state championship.
St. Thomas Aquinas (12-2) entered the game as the favorite, and the team certainly showed their strength in the win.
Things were negative for Plant (13-1) from the beginning when Head Coach Robert Weiner was issued a sideline warning and a personal foul. From there, the Raiders flexed their arms and showed how good they are when Florida-commit Jake Allen passed to Michael Harley for a 24-yard touchdown, the first for the Raiders on the evening. It was set up by Adetutu Daranijo’s interception from Plant QB Dane Frantzen.
The Raiders got a blessing from a snap that went over the head of Plant P Nick Rice, which turned into a 28-yard TD pass from Allen to Joshua Palmer to put them up 14-0 before the end of the quarter.
Early in the second quarter, the Panthers went for it on 4th down, but St. Thomas came up with the big stop, forcing a turnover on downs. Eight plays and 58 yards later, they were back in the end zone, catalyzed by a 37-yard rush from Kyshaun Bryan. Michael Epstein was credited with the one-yard run in.
Plant would show vital signs when Frantzen threw a bomb to WR Whop Philyor – with the added face mask penalty, the Panthers were inside the red zone for one of only two times on the game. Frantzen punched it in two plays later.
After that, it was pretty much all St. Thomas Aquinas, starting with a 22-yard field goal from Marco Salani. Jaden Davis intercepted Frantzen on the next Plant drive. Allen threw to Jordan Merrell, who made some nice moves before waltzing into the end zone to put the Raiders up 31-6 at halftime.
But again, St. Thomas Aquinas kept forcing three-and-outs, which turned into Raider touchdowns.
Allen tossed his second touchdown to Harley on the evening from ten yards away to put STA up 38-6 in the third, and would do it again from 67 with thirty seconds to play in the quarter to give the Raiders a running clock and a 45-6 lead going into the final quarter.
The Panthers kept the ball for 9:20 in the final quarter, but STA kept them from scoring to prevent the running clock from stopping and preserving their third state championship in a row. It was also their seventh in the past decade.
Frantzen finished his final high school game 11-for-26 for 109 yards and two interceptions. He added 82 on the ground. Allen had 329 yards, five TDs, and went 17-for-29 on the evening, something Florida Gator fans have to be very happy about coming into next season.
Harley added 133 receiving yards and three scores for the Raiders, while Philyor had five receptions for 57 yards for the Panthers.