Not your typical state championship

ORLANDO — Across 40 years of coaching, 411 victories and 10 state championships, The Bolles School head coach Corky Rogers has seen his fair share of success in the Jacksonville prep ranks. But even he had to admit that he would take an extra shining to the Bulldogs’ 33-25 victory against Miami Booker T. Washington on Saturday night.

“Because it’s the one that just happened, it’s the one that’s the most special,” Rogers said.

Heading into the fourth quarter down by 13, Bolles scored 21 unanswered points to capture the FHSAA Class 4A state championship in front of an announced crowd of 2,075 at the Citrus Bowl.

The rally began with a six-yard touchdown run by Milton Revell with 9:58 to play in the final quarter. A successful extra point conversion by kicker Brooks Abbott cut the Washington lead to 25-19.

After the Tornadoes were unable to generate any type of offense on their next possession, Bolles methodically moved down the field on a nine-play, 58-yard drive. A 33-yard touchdown run from Tim Betros (14 carries, 117 yards), followed by another extra point from Abbott gave Bolles a 26-25 lead wth 3:52 to play.

“That was ‘jamboree left,’” Bolles left tackle and Georgia verbal commitment John Theus said. “The first time we ran it, it was wide open. The second time, they overloaded the strong side. So when the coaches called it I knew we could get it going.”

Any hopes for a quick comeback from Washington were spoiled on the ensuing kickoff when Washington sophomore cornerback Nigel Patten bobbled the catch and was unable to corral the ball. Bolles linebacker Cody Boswell was credited with the recovery and touchdown, which extended the Bulldogs’ lead to 33-25 with 3:46 to play.

All this, despite five fumbles from Bolles – three of which were recovered by Washington. It wasn’t the typical fashion in which Bolles has been known to win so many games in recent years. However, the resolve showed by a veteran squad certainly showed the stamp of a Rogers-coached squad on the biggest of stages at the prep level.

“That’s kind of the way it’s been. It hasn’t been easy for us in a lot of games this year,” the Bolles coach said. “But when you play hard, good things happen to you.”

The Tornadoes still were able to mount one last drive in an effort to tie the game late, but a Travon Harris pass fell incomplete in the end zone with 17 seconds to play, and a mad celebration began on the Bolles sidelines as a result.

“The biggest thing we have to keep developing our kids to understand this whole situation, about playing like a champion,” Booker T. Washington coach Tim Harris said. “Tonight, there were a lot of things missing and I blame myself.”

Even in defeat, Booker T. Washington had a number of players put together impressive performances – none moreso than junior Matthew Thomas. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound linebacker recorded 15 tackles, two passes defender, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry.

But at the end, this was a night for Bolles. This version of the Bulldogs might not have been as good as some of the previous incarnations to take the field in recent years. But they might have been the most resilient group to play for Rogers.

“We’ve gone through a lot of that this year,” Theus said after the game. “We never doubted ourselves. We continued to fight, and that’s what we did. I love these guys. They’re the hardest-working bunch in Florida.”

State finals set for next week

The second wave of the FHSAA football finals will return to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando next weekend. The schedule is as follows:

Friday, Dec. 16

1:00 p.m. – Class 5A final: Crawfordville Wakulla vs. Miami Norland (SUN Sports)

7:00 p.m. – Class 7A final: Jacksonville First Coast vs. Bradenton Manatee (SUN Sports)

Saturday, Dec. 17

1:00 p.m. – Class 6A final: Seffner Armwood vs. Miami Central (FOX Sports Florida)

7:00 p.m. – Class 8A final: Tampa Plant vs Miramar (FOX Sports Florida)

Of course, stay tuned to Gator Country for complete coverage of the remainder of the state championship games from beautiful, sunny Central Florida.

Justin Wells hosts a weekly recruiting video chat with Andrew Spivey on Tuesday nights from 8:30-9:30 p.m. EST. You can view the show live on the Gator Country TV page. You can also e-mail him at—or follow him on twitter @j_wellsGC.