• WR Duron Carter, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas – The Raiders will face arguably their toughest challenge of the season Friday when they host 12-1 Largo in a Florida High School Athletic Association Class 5A state semifinal.
Largo earned its shot at the Raiders with a 59-17 rout of Punta Gorda Charlotte in a regional final. Despite the lopsided final score, the game was the closest the Packers had played in the playoffs. Largo held a 31-17 lead early in the third quarter before pulling away with four quick touchdowns.
Of Largo’s eight touchdowns, seven came on drives lasting less than two minutes. Five took less than 90 seconds.
“I’ve never seen anything like what we did (tonight),” Largo coach Rick Rodriguez told the St. Petersburg Times of his team’s offensive explosion. “That’s the first time we scored 50 points since I've been here.”
Quarterback Ryan Eppes threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns on 12 of 18 passing. Receivers Myrick Gwynn and Mike Lang combined to catch eight passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns.
Running back Marcel Durham added three scores and ran for 94 yards.
“When we’re clicking, we’re tough to beat,” Eppes told the Times.
St. Thomas Aquinas (13-0) continued its dominant play with a 56-14 win over Stuart South Fork in a regional final last weekend. Carter caught three passes for 37 yards in the win, and Beau Bucci added 81 rushing yards and a back-breaking touchdown in the second quarter. After South Fork cut its deficit to 21-7, Bucci gave his team the momentum back with a 65-yard touchdown on the ensuing possession.
The Raiders’ high-powered offense scored on all of its first-half possessions. James White scored on runs of 19 and 4 yards to get the scoring started. Steven Bravo-Brown added a 10-yard touchdown reception from Ryan Becker to extend the lead to 21-0. After Bucci’s touchdown extended the lead to 28-7, Ronnie Kennedy finished the first-half scoring with a 3-yard run.
Kennedy added two more touchdowns in the second half, one on a 32-yard interception return and the other on an 88-yard punt return. Giovanni Bernard added a 7-yard score, and Zack Fisher capped the scoring with a 10-yard run.
St. Thomas Aquinas has outscored its three playoff opponents 140-29.
• LB Jordan Whiting, Louisville (Ky.) Trinity – Trinity will play for its fourth straight state title Saturday night vs. Independence Simon Kenton in the Kentucky High School Atheltic Association Class 6A final at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville.
Trinity earned its title game berth with a 28-21 victory last weekend over rival Louisville St. Xavier. The win, spurred by a 182-yard, three-touchdown performance by senior running back Tim Phillips, avenged a 30-6 loss to St. X in the regular season.
The Shamrocks (13-1) shocked the Tigers by scoring the game’s first three touchdowns and leading 28-7 at halftime. Whiting and the defense held Mr. Football candidate Deuce Finch to 80 yards on 21 carries.
Trinity has outscored its four playoff opponents 187-52.
Simon Kenton (10-4) comes into the game as a Cinderella making its first championship game appearance. In fact, the Pioneers had only one playoff victory before this season. They’ve added four more in 2008, all on the road. The last of which came last week against future Buckeye Justin Green and Louisville Male. The visiting Pioneers rallied from a 10-0 deficit and won 28-10.
Green was held to 65 yards in the loss, and Simon Kenton outgained Male 318-92 on the ground. Simon Kenton junior Miles Simpson led the attack with 172 yards, 137 coming in the fourth quarter. Simpson scored three second-half touchdowns.
“Lou Gehrig said it, so I’ll say it: ‘I’m the happiest man alive,’ ” Simon Kenton coach Jeff Marksberry told the Louisville Courier-Journal.
For Simon Kenton’s seniors, the game is a rematch of their first playoff experience. The Pioneers snuck into the playoffs that season as a No. 4 seed in their region and were routed 52-0 by Trinity in the first round.
“I got in the last play of the game,” senior captain Craig Schadler told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “They told me to go in and I just thought, ‘Wow, these guys are big.’ I was shaky.”
The Pioneers will not be intimidated by the Shamrocks this time, however.
“I feel like we’ve earned it this time, being on the same field as them,” senior captain Patrick Bustle told the Enquirer. “It’s not like we went 6-4, barely made the playoffs and then got to play the magical Trinity. It’s not like that anymore. We’ve earned this. We’re more prepared and we're a better football team.”
The following OSU verbal commits have finished their seasons: CB C.J. Barnett, Clayton (Ohio) Northmont; WLB Dorian Bell and CB/WR Corey Brown, Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway; DT/OG Adam Bellamy, Aurora, Ohio; Jaamal Berry, Miami (Fla.) Palmetto; LB/FB Zach Boren and DB/WR Jamie Wood, Pickerington (Ohio) Central; CB Dominic Clarke, Frederick (Md.) Tuscarora; DE Melvin Fellows, Garfield Heights, Ohio; WR Chris Fields, Painesville (Ohio) Harvey; TE/OL Reid Fragel, Grosse Pointe (Mich.) South; CB/RB/WR Justin Green, Louisville (Ky.) Male; RB/CB Jordan Hall, Jeannette, Pa.; LB/FB Adam Homan, Coldwater, Ohio; FB Carlos Hyde, Naples, Fla.; WR/CB James Jackson, Grand Ledge, Mich.; LB/RB Storm Klein, Newark (Ohio) Licking Valley; OG Corey Linsley and J.T. Moore (junior), Youngstown (Ohio) Boardman; OT Sam Longo, Bellbrook, Ohio; OL/DL Jack Mewhort, Toledo (Ohio) St. John’s Jesuit; DE Jonathan Newsome, Cleveland Glenville; DT Johnny Simon, Youngstown (Ohio) Cardinal Mooney.