By Ron White
Everyone who knows the game has heard that defense wins football championships. Last Friday, though, offense lifted several teams to victory.
In the highly anticipated match-up of Central Florida’s two remaining Class 6A schools, Sanford Seminole used its power-packed offense for a 21-17 come-from-behind win against Orlando’s Boone High School.
It was a historic win for the school, which had never earned a trip to the state title game.
This Saturday, Seminole plays defending Class 6A state champion Miami Northwestern at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
Miami Northwestern earned its trip after defeating Miramar 42-23 on Friday.
Against Boone, the Seminoles didn’t fire up their powerful offense until the second half. Boone contained speedy Andre Debose and quarterback Ray Ray Armstrong enough to give the Braves a first-half shutout and a 10-0 halftime lead.
The second half, though, belonged to Armstrong. The 6-foot-4 signal-caller used his size and power to plow through the Braves’ defense for three touchdown runs, including one in the game’s waning seconds that swung the outcome away from Boone.
The Braves (11-3) trailed 14-10 after Armstrong’s second score, which came early in the fourth quarter, but Boone quartertback Sam Hutsell connected with Michael Keith on an 8-yard touchdown pass to move ahead 17-14 later in the fourth quarter.
The Braves maintained that margin until Armstrong bulled his way into the end zone on a 1-yard run in the game’s final minute.
Seminole (12-2) scored its first points on Armstrong’s 8-yard run in the third quarter following a Boone turnover. The Seminoles took the lead when Boone fumbled again, this time near midfield. Debose broke free for his longest run of the night, a 39-yard scamper, to set up Armstrong’s 5-yard run.
4A Semifinals: Lincoln Skips past Sandcrabs
Daytona Beach Seabreeze coach Marc Beach thought he had a great secret weapon heading into last Friday’s Class 4A state semifinal game at Tallahassee Lincoln.
That weapon, though, backfired, and Beach came under scrutiny for playing junior quarterback Matt Thompson over junior Dominique Roberts in a 30-12 loss.
Thompson hadn’t played since injuring his ankle in early September, but he entered the game for Roberts in the first quarter and played the position for the remainder of the game.
It was a surprise for some, but the coaching staff had worked with Thompson at quarterback all week, and Roberts called his teammate the better player at the position a few days before the game.
Still, it left some wondering whether Beach had made a mistake. After all, Roberts had more than 1,000 yards both rushing and passing this season. He had shown improvement in the postseason after filling in for Thompson starting in late September.
While Seabreeze (8-6) was tinkering with its offense, Lincoln was showcasing its own.
Lincoln quarterback Ryan White rushed for 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns and threw for 50 yards on six attempts. His second-quarter touchdown helped Lincoln to a 14-6 halftime lead, and he helped seal it with a 4-yard run in the fourth quarter that made it 23-12.
Thompson showed the ability to lead the team. He completed 18 of 25 passes for 221 yards, but he also struggled with accuracy. Thompson threw three interceptions, including one returned for a score in the fourth quarter.
“I really feel like we should’ve won that game, but we didn’t make the stop on defense when we needed to and we had a couple other mistakes,” Beach told the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Roberts had six catches for 44 yards and nine rushes for 31 yards.
Lincoln (11-3) actually had fewer first downs than Seabreeze. The Sandcrabs had 14 first downs while Lincoln had just 10. Lincoln faces Tampa Plant Saturday in the championship game. Plant defeated Dwyer 24-21 in the semis.
In other semifinal action, Lakeland defeated Pine Forest 22-21 and St. Thomas Aquinas defeated Largo 35-14. Those teams will meet in the state championship game in Class 5A this weekend in Orlando.
In Class 3A, Cocoa won one for the ages to earn a trip to this weekend’s state championship game.
Knotted 17-17 with Monsignor Pace, Cocoa sent 5-foot-7, 113-pound sophomore kicker Cody Bell onto the field in the waning seconds, and he booted an eye-popping 52-yard field goal as time expired to give the Tigers the win.
The kick, Bell’s second of the game, came on the heals of a 24-yard catch by Tyler Anderson. It was the team’s first pass reception of the entire game, and it moved the Tigers past midfield to the 38-yard line with less than a minute to play.
The Tigers (13-1) take on Godby in the state championship game this weekend. Cocoa earned the spot by defeating Monsignor Pace 20-17. Godby was a 28-14 winner at Pasco.
Cocoa’s wild journey this season came down to an unlikely hero, but one who was certainly up to the challenge.
1B Championship: Jupiter powers past Warner
In the Class 1B state championship game, South Daytona Warner Christian found itself overmatched by a Jupiter Christian team with an offense that benefits from having multiple strengths.
Jupiter took a big halftime lead and went on to win 49-14.
Warner Coach Andy Price was quick to congratulate Jupiter Christian and to compliment the two-time state champs.
“We had no answer for them,” Price told the Orlando Sentinel.
That sentiment emerged in the game’s second quarter. After Warner Christian scored its first points on a second-quarter run by sophomore sensation Breon Allen, Jupiter Christian reeled off three touchdowns to lead 34-7 at the half. Quarterback Marshyl Rothman figured into all three scores. He ran two in and threw for a third score in the second quarter. Rothman finished the game with 144 rushing yards and Jupiter Christian fullback Will Powers, the son of the team’s head coach, rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
Jupiter’s offensive success forced Warner Christian to change its game plan, which had focused on running the ball in the same way it did in the team’s 21-13 state semifinal win against Tallahassee FAMU. After falling behind, though, the Eagles were forced to put the ball into the air.
Warner Christian is expected to return most of its starters from this year’s 12-2 team, and the team’s success might convince some other top area athletes to transfer to the school.
1A/2B/2A Championships: Familiar names win small-school titles
In Class 1A, North Florida Christian defeated Fort Meade 17-7 at the Citus Bowl to win the state championship.
In Class 2B, that familiar swamp monster, the Pahokee Blue Devils, won 21-17 against Ocala Trinity Catholic to claim the 2A state title.
Trinity (12-2) led Pahokee 17-14 before DeJoshua Johnson connected with Dennis Hall on a 20-yard touchdown pass late in the game. Pahokee (12-2) won for the third straight time.
In Class 2A, Jacksonville Bolles won the state championship 49-20 over Gulliver Prep after leading 28-7 at the half. In the game, Chandler Carr threw three touchdown passes to Jay Herndon and Stephen Barnett rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns.