Florida commitments Maurkice and Michael Pouncey are going out champions! Lakeland High School won its third straight state championship Friday night with a 45-42 double overtime win over St. Thomas Aquinas. The twins offer their final installment of the season-long diary as Lakeland went 15-0 to make it 45 straight wins. Lakeland could be selected national champions for a second straight year.
MAURKICE POUNCEY: I think we’re going to remember this state championship and our high school careers more because of the way the game ended Friday night. It was crazy the way it ended. I never thought anyone could score on our defense the way they did at the end and then those crazy onside kicks they recovered. I’ll be honest. I was scared. But you know what they say: football is a game of inches that’s won in the trenches.
We had the game won 35-14 in the fourth quarter and then it started slipping away. They got a quick touchdown and then they recovered two onsides kicks in a row. Can you believe that? I still can’t believe it. Everybody knew what was coming and the ball just took some crazy hops. Then they scored two more times and we’re in overtime and I’m wondering what’s with this? Was I scared? Yeah, I was scared but you know, even though I was scared there was something inside me that was telling me we’re going to win. Maybe I was more nervous than scared.
It was 35-35 and we went into overtime and after the first overtime it’s 42-42. We went for a field goal on fourth down in the second overtime and they went for the win on their fourth down. On that last play, they’re a yard away and they sent my brother and me in there for the goal line stand. I thought they might go our way since they just sent us in but they went to John Brown’s side and that was crazy. You don’t challenge JB. JB is an animal on the D-Line. He’s the best D-tackle in the country but they went right at him for some reason. He beat the two guys blocking him and made that first hit and then Ahmad Black hit the guy and started pulling him back and then Ahmad’s cousin, Brian Valdez, wrapped him up and finished him off. I knew when Brian got him it was over.
We started jumping around all over the field and our teammates rushed the field. I just stood there and I was crying. I think it was a combination that this was the last time I’ll ever play football with all my senior teammates who are like my brothers and also because we won the state for the third time in a row. Man, I cried my eyes out. It was pretty emotional for me. I think it was a pretty emotional time for everyone.
It was probably more emotional for Chris Rainey than anybody after all he went through during the week. You know what’s funny? Anyone that knows Rainey knows he’s a big teaser and trash talker. I mean who hasn’t heard him say that Reggie Bush stole all his moves? So this writer comes and writes a story and makes it look like people are paying Rainey to play football and stuff like that. Well, that never ever happened but he almost couldn’t play because of the story in that newspaper.
I give props to Mr. (Mark) Thomas, our principal on that. He trusted Rainey and he believed him. He hired a detective to check things out and he talked to a lot of people. He found out that Rainey had been doing some talking and playing around but nothing to show that he’s ever been taking money to play football. My brother and me know Chris better than anybody. He hasn’t been taking money to play. That was a bad thing that happened to him and it really hurt Chris. He had a bad week but he made up for it in the game. He made some great runs, didn’t he?
I cried a lot during the week for my boy Chris because I knew how much he wanted to play and they were talking that he wasn’t going to play. I think he probably will appreciate this state championship more than anyone else.
We’ll be in Gainesville in about four more weeks and we really can’t wait. We’re Gators all the way. There’s no way we could be anything but Gators, especially now. This is our school and we’re ready to get up there and start working. You guys are going to get our best every day.
MICHAEL POUNCEY: It feels weird that it’s Monday and we don’t have football practice. I mean we’ve had seasons that ended before but we always knew next year we’d be playing again for Lakeland High School. Now there is no football practice for Lakeland High School for us again because we’ve played our last game. It’s all over but we went out with a win. It would have really been tough to come this far and lose in our last game.
I think people are going to remember this state championship more than the other two because the way the game ended was so crazy. The first two we won were blowouts so I think maybe a lot of people think we were just a really strong team maybe in a weak division. To win the way we did everybody a few years from now will still be talking about that night Lakeland won its third straight championship.
Because we won it in overtime like we did, it’s probably going to be pretty special to everybody. It was a close call but we got a win. On that last play my brother and I went in on defense. They didn’t run our way but I’m glad we were on the field. You want to be on the field when the game is on the line.
You know what I’m going to miss about Lakeland? It’s the way we are on the football team and the way it is at the school. You don’t see any hatred on our team or prejudice. Coach Castle won’t stand for that and Mr. (Mark) Thomas, our principal, won’t let that happen in the school. They always say the only colors at Lakeland are black and orange, that we’re all Dreadnaughts. That’s the way it is at our school. I know it’s not like that at other places but it’s the way it is at Lakeland. I think that’s special.
I think Mr. Thomas showed what kind of person he is the way he stuck up for Rainey. He’s been our principal for the four years we’ve been at school and he’s a really good guy. He stuck up for Chris and we’ll never forget him for that. Chris didn’t do anything wrong and Mr. Thomas knew it. All week we were worried but Mr. Thomas kept cool about things and when he got the facts, he said Chris could play. That answered prayers. We were praying a lot all week long and we just knew it would work out someway.
No football practice today but my brother and I are going to the weight room. In four more weeks we’re going to be at the University of Florida and we’re coming in ready to go from the first day. We’re both over 6-5 and we weigh about 305 now. Everybody says we’re still growing.
It may seem crazy but we are getting ready to come to Gainesville to play. Coach Meyer and Coach Addazio and Coach Hevesy have kept telling us that how much we play depends on us. It’s all about how quick we learn and how hard we work. If we learn the system and we work harder than anybody else, then we know they’ll give us a chance to play. We know we can learn the system and we know we can work harder than anyone else. It’s all up to us.
Six of us are going to Gainesville to be Gators. It’s been a fun four years for my brother and me and Paul Wilson, Ahmad, Steve Wilks and Rainey. I think JB is going with us, too. We talk to him a lot and he wants to be with all his friends.
It’s been a fun four years at Lakeland for my brother and me. Now we’re going to Gainesville to be Gators. We’re 100 percent Gators but we’re going to be Lakeland Dreadnaughts for life, too. We get to go out as champions at Lakeland and we’re coming to Florida where the Gators are champions.