• WR Duron Carter, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas – If Carter and the Raiders are to win their second straight Florida High School Athletic Association Class 5A title, they will have to get past longtime rival Lakeland. The two high school powerhouses will play Friday night at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
Both teams enter the championship game with 14-0 records and have seemingly been on a collision course all season. Friday’s game will be the seventh playoff meeting between the schools since 1996 and fifth in a title game. St. Thomas Aquinas is the top-ranked team in the USA Today Super 25 national rankings, while Lakeland enters the game as No. 6.
While the Raiders will be the favorites on Friday, history is on the Dreadnaughts’ side. Lakeland has never lost a title game and has defeated St. Thomas Aquinas in the finals four times (1996, 2004-06). The last of those ended with a 45-42 double-overtime victory for the Dreadnaughts. In that game, Lakeland built a 21-0 lead only to have the Raiders score the last 35 points of regulation to force overtime. After the teams traded touchdowns in the first OT, Lakeland earned the win with a Matt Roddenberry field goal and a goal line stand on a fourth-and-1 play.
“It’s become a great rivalry,” St. Thomas Aquinas linebacker Conor O’Neill told the Sun-Sentinel. “I was a small part of it my sophomore year, and Lakeland’s a good team. I can’t be happier that we have a chance to play them again.”
The Raiders have outscored their 14 opponents 639-110 this season and have an average margin of victory 37.7 points. Expectations are high at St. Thomas Aquinas going into Friday, but that’s nothing new.
“I knew before I came to school here that you’re expected to win,” senior quarterback Ryan Becker told the Miami Herald. “My brother and sister went to school here and I saw games growing up. Then when I was a freshman and sophomore, I would watch the quarterback and I knew if I was ever the starting quarterback here that I would be expected to win.”
In the Raiders’ latest victory, a semifinal 35-14 rout Dec. 12 of visiting Largo, Carter caught a pair of touchdown passes. The son of Buckeye and NFL great Cris Carter touchdown strikes of 20 and 1 yard. Becker threw another TD and completed 14 of 21 passes for 148 yards. Running back Giovanni Bernard finished with a game-high 171 yards.
For the season, Carter has 13 touchdowns and has caught 37 passes for 726 yards.
Lakeland earned its spot in the title game Dec. 12 with a 22-21 victory over Pensacola Pine Forest. Sophomore receiver Javares McRoy led the Lakeland offense, catching eight passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns. He added six carries for 35 yards and another score.
The Dreadnaughts had to come from behind twice to defeat the Eagles. McRoy’s final score put Lakeland ahead for good, and a T.J. Denton interception in the final seconds sealed the victory.
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; LB Jordan Whiting, Louisville (Ky.) Trinity.