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(Tim Tebow profile)
Nease defeated Pace 31-14 before an energized, standing room only crowd. The Panthers defense was dominating. They limited Pace running back John Mark Patrick to just 52 net yards. There could only be one leading rusher in this game, and that too was the T. He had 18 carries for 90 yards. He added 244 yards passing, including an electrifying 97-yard touchdown pass that sent the Panthers faithful into a frenzy.
With the Panthers leading 3-0 and taking the snap from their own three yard line, Tebow found receiver Ryan Ellis sprinting down the middle of the field and hit him in stride for a 97 yard touchdown pass that quieted a few Patriots fans who were mocking his name in chant. Just before the snap of the ball, one man yelled, "You're gonna get beat, Tebow." It was a classic error in timing.
The famous T-E-B-O-W boys
"We just got a few opportunities to execute on a few and make some big plays," Tebow said. "Coach Howard has faith in us and (Ryan) Ellis just went out there and made an awesome play, just like he has all year. We knew that we could count on him and he went out there and got it. It was a big momentum changer. It's just an awesome time."
Ellis finished with six receptions for 166 yards and a score.
Nease had a golden opportunity to add to their lead as time ticked away in the first half. The Panthers moved the ball to the Patriots three with just five seconds left, but a pass caught by a Nease receiver at the edge of the endzone was ruled out of bounds. A fraction of a second remained, but as the Patriots coaches quickly escorted their team form the field, Howard and company lost the argument with officials, who ruled the end of the half.
"It's more of a pass, it can be a run, pass option, but the way they were playing it, they had so many guys out there, that we thought that we could get a quick pass in there without running too much clock and kick a field goal," he said. "But, they (referees) said the clock ran out. But, they said the clock ran out. That was a tough break."
Tebow surrounded by the crowd afterwards
Tebow added a ten yard run in the third quarter to make the score 17-0. During the third quarter, Meyer, Florida defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, and secondary coach Chuck Heater made their way from the sidelines to the seats where Tebow's parents and Florida safety Kyle Jackson were comfortably sitting. It was almost comical to watch three Alabama assistants turn and eye the coaches until they made their way through the crowd and met the Tebow family. They continued to turn and look up in the stands.
The fourth quarter saw Tebow hit Daunte Owens with a screen pass that he took 31 yards to paydirt. The Panthers led 31-8.
It would be the final home game in the legendary prep career of Tim Tebow.
Tebow's gridiron farewell played out like Elvis' return or the Beatles arrival in the states. Five students braved the chilly temperatures by painting a letter on their body in Orange and Blue paint, spelling out Tebow. They got the attention of the fans, Florida Coach Urban Meyer, and Tebow himself, who was certainly aware of their game attire. Florida fans also adorned the stadium crowd with signs that read, "Gator Nation needs you" and "Are you 1% of the 1%?" The Gator Nation sign was complete with a Gator head logo.
There were a few Alabama fans sprinkled about. Obviously, with the home state Gators dominating the landscape, they were clearly outnumbered by those wearing the Orange and Blue. Fellow All-American C.J. Spiller of Union County was in attendance, and Tebow reportedly greeted him as the Panthers were preparing to take the field.
Tebow signing autographs
After a brief post game congrats from Coach Howard, Tebow led a group in prayer and celebrated with his teammates. As the band played, he began excitedly jumping up and down. His teammates and the throng of fans who took over the turf joined him in what had to have looked like pseudo mosh pit.
One young man, grabbed Tebow and hoisted him in the air as the crowd cheered. It was a feat that could have never been rendered on Elvis and his ever expanding waistline.
Tebow would spend eternity the next signing his name to pieces of paper, game programs, Nease jerseys', and T-shirts. He received hugs from students, both known and unknown, posed for photos with pothers, and made it a point to acknowledge every child within eyesight with a hug, pat on the back, or both. It should be noted that Tebow is home schooled. He doesn't get the opportunity to spent time with theses students every day.
Meyer and Mattison fought through the crowd to shake his hand, before they made their way to Coach Howard's office.
When asked if he was aware of the fan support during the game, Tebow laughingly replied, "Well, you hear about it (from teammates), but try to stay focused on the game."
Oh, he knew.
For Tebow, this will forever remain one of life's snapshots. It was a celebration of friends, family, and community. After suffering through losing campaign after losing campaign, this is unchartered territory for the Nease Panthers. Let the band play ‘til daylight and get the bags ready for Miami. Tebow's were already packed for yet another recruiting trip.
Coaches Meyer and Mattison pose with the Tebow Boys
"We came out and tried to execute," he said. "Some drives didn't come out like we wanted, but we kept battling and coach had faith in us and finally we were able to get some plays to work and really turn the momentum around."
Nease has one enormous hurdle before they lay claim to a state title, Armwood. The Hawks have been there, and celebrated themselves, defeating (Lakeland ) Lake Gibson in each of the past two seasons.
The teams will meet on Saturday, December 10th at 1pm in Dolphins Stadium.