ORLANDO- St. Thomas Aquinas capitalized on their big play game to overcome a tremendous rushing performance by Kissimmee Osceola running back Kwamaine Brown as the Raiders defeated the Kowboys 35-20.
This was a victory for the ages. St. Thomas Aquinas now owns the state record for most FHSAA Tournament Games won with 60. The previous record was held by Jacksonville Bolles. St. Thomas Aquinas’ overall winning percentage is impressive with 60 victories in just 82 games. You’d have been hard pressed to convince anybody of that recently though.
The Raiders had lost five state championship games since last winning a state title in 1999 over Pensacola Escambia. They had lost three consecutive to powerhouse Lakeland, including a 45-42 double overtime shootout last season at Dolphin Stadium.
St. Thomas Aquinas running back Jeremiah Harden got things started quickly with an 84 yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
The Kowboys answered with a 10 yard touchdown run by Brown, who scored 31 touchdowns in the regular season and tied the single season touchdown record established by Sean Taylor of Gulliver Prep and Antone Smith of Pahokee.
Connor O’Neill took the ensuing kickoff 73 yards to the house for the Raiders second score of the game.
Each team closed out the first half with scores. St. Thomas Aquinas took a 21-7 lead after quarterback Ryan Becker found Duron Carter for a 12 yard score. Osceola answered with an 85 yard punt return with just :31 seconds left in the first half. The Kowboys missed the two-point conversion. The Raiders led 21-13 at the half.
Ronnie Kennedy hauled in a 37 yard pass from Becker in the third quarter to extend the Raiders lead to 28-13.
Brown once again got Osceola back in the game when he broke off on a 29 yard scamper. The 28-20 game lasted all of two minutes, when Carter took a 51 yard pass from Becker, closing out the scoring 35-20.
NOTES: Duron Carter caught two passes for 61 yards, both went for touchdowns. The 6’2 junior is the son of former NFL great Cris Carter, who is an assistant coach for the Raiders. He has speed, moves, and hands and figures to be a player to keep an eye on this spring and summer.