ORLANDO — St. Thomas Aquinas survived an early scare in the FHSAA 5A championship game.
The nation’s No. 2-ranked team was playing from behind for the first time this season before going on to win 29-7 against Tampa Plant HS at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in front of 5,482 fans.
After starting the season 3-2, Plant went on a nine-game winning streak to reach Friday’s title game. The surging Panthers took an early 7-6 lead over STA. The Raiders (Ft. Lauderdae) took control of the game and finished on a 23-7 run.
The Plant defense could not stop Florida State commit Rashad Greene, who finished the game with six catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Aquinas sophomore running back Frederick Coppet added 173 yards on only ten carries.
With Aquinas holding a 13-7 lead with 19 seconds remaining in the first half, the Raiders appeared to intend to run out the clock and head to the locker room.
Instead, Coppet took a carry around the left end, broke a tackle, and raced 93 yards for a touchdown. Coppet, who also runs track for Aquinas, grew up an FSU fan, but likes all of the Florida schools early on in the recruiting process.
Plant could not find any type of consistency on offense all night.
Plant senior running back James Wilder Jr. (FSU commit) was held to 78 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Senior quarterback Phillip Ely (Alabama commit) completed 13-of-35 passes for 166 yards and two interceptions.
One of those interceptions went to STA senior defensive back Marcus Roberson. Roberson made a leaping catch in the end zone to save a potential Plant touchdown and allow the Raiders to put the game out of reach. Though Auburn still leads for Roberson, he insists that he remains open.
“Yeah Auburn is still my leader but I am still open right now,” Roberson said. “I’ve talked to coach Muschamp once, and he’s a good coach so Florida is still in it.”
Roberson has stated in the past that he would prefer to play corner over safety in college, however he has now loosened up on his stance.
“I like corner, but I will play whatever position my coach wants me to play in college – whether it’s safety or corner I will do what they tell me to do,” Roberson said.
– This is the sixth state championship for St. Thomas Aquinas. If No. 1 Trinity (Euliss, TX) loses to No. 12 Pearland (Pearland, TX) on Saturday, St. Thomas Aquinas would claim the proverbial National Championship for any classification.
– Keep an eye on junior defensive end Jelani Hamilton (6-6/220) for Aquinas. He is hearing from FSU, Florida, Miami and other colleges. He recorded a sack and was very disruptive all night. He does have a surprising early leader in Texas, but says he is very open at this point.
– St. Thomas Aquinas outgained Plant 472-to-235 yards of total offense. Despite losing by 22 points, Plant won the time of possession battle 25:33 to 22:27.
– Aquinas quarterback Jacob Rudock (Iowa commit) was 13-of-23 for 283 yards and two touchdowns in the victory.