Tebow leads Nease to 4A Title, 44-37

MIAMI, FL --- A lot has been written about Nease QB Tim Tebow, and for very good reason. His uncanny ability to make plays- be it to keep a drive alive or score via the quick strike are intangibles that you won't find in the state record books. Impressively, many of these accomplishments have been achieved against some of the best in the country. Minutes into the Class 4A title game, it was evident that two-time defending state champion Armwood would be the latest to experience the Tebow

Just as he had all season, the southpaw put the Nease offense on his shoulders. The offensive prowess of Tebow and the support of his Nease teammates, which often turned the shoulders of US 1 into a parking lot was on display in Dolphins Stadium. Those south Floridians who bothered to attend the game were treated to quite a show, quite a show indeed. Nease won 44-37 and secured its' first ever state football championship.

On the Panthers first possession, Tebow had six carries for 17 yards. Two of those went for key first downs and he completed each of his first three passes for 54 yards. The last completion went for 17 yards to wide receiver Ryan Ellis for the games' first score.

A Nease defense that held four opponents scoreless did their part and forced Armwood to punt.

Tebow was sacked on first down and responded by rolling out and completed his next two passes to get the ball to the Hawks 47yard line. He went deep on the next play and Armwood effectively hindered its success by holding Ellis. The pass interference penalty gave Nease a first and ten at the 33. Two plays later, Tebow took a quarterback draw, made a move to his right, freezing linebacker Doug Thompson and cut back left running alone 25 yards for the Panthers second touchdown.

Tebow completed seven of seven passes for 81 yards and a score. He led the Panthers in rushing with 27 yards on ten carries and a touchdown. The All-American had accumulated for 108 of Nease's 115 yards of total offense. Of course, that was just after one quarter of play.

"They're (Armwood) a great team," Tebow said afterwards. "They've got so much talent. They played so hard. We thought that we had them down, and they played with a lot heart and fought back. They had a really good game. They're great coaches and great players."

Armwood finally acknowledged the alarm clock and answered with a ten play, 84 yard drive that saw the Hawks line fire off of the ball and open holes and pass protect. Running backs Marui Branton and Eric Smith ran for a combined 44 yards and quarterback Justin Hickman completed four of four passes for 50 yards. Hickman hot Smith for a six yard touchdown with 38 seconds remaining in the quarter.

The Hawks gained some much needed momentum and demonstrated a little lightning of their own, putting 15 points on the board in 98 seconds of play.

The Hawks defense sacked Tebow for a loss of eight yards to their own 10 yard line. Two plays later, Nease lined up to punt, but the ball was fumbled and Armwood secured a safety trimming the Panthers lead to 14-9.

Alex Amaral kicked off to Armwood receiver/return specialist Matt Brevi, who took the ball 83 yards for Armwood's second touchdown. The Hawks took their only lead of the game 15-14.

Tebow needed four plays to move the Panthers 72 yards and retake the lead. He ran only once, picking up 10 yards. He completed each of his three passes, including a 33 yard strike to Caleb Cooper that was tipped by Armwood defensive back Akeem Joseph. Two plays later, he found Ellis dragging across the field for a 36 yard touchdown. That's right, 73 seconds later, Nease regained the lead 20-15.

Armwood fumbled on a poor quarterback/running back exchange and the Panthers were set up with only 20 yards to drive for yet another score.

Three plays later, Tebow found his favorite target Ellis for a five yard touchdown pass. The Panthers led 27-15. They added a 10 play 75 yard drive just before the intermission. Tebow scored on a six yard run and Nease took a 34-15 halftime lead into the Dolphins Stadium locker room.

Success didn't exactly easily come to Tebow. Whether he rolled left, rolled to right, or stood in the pocket the Hawks tried to get pressure on him. They sacked him four times in the game. But, did it really matter?

The old addage that they came with a packed lunch is of little consequence when he eats your lunch on the very next play.

The Nease defense forced a three and out on Armood to start the second half. Running back Daunte Owens took the first play of the half through the Hawks defense for 33 yards. On third and five, Tebow escaped the Armwood pressure and found Chandler Barden, who had drifted beyond the coverage as the defensive backs were caught looking into the backfield. The play resulted in a 40 yard touchdown pass.

The Hawks scored just before the end of the third quarter after a six play, 41 yard drive. Hickman finished off the drive with a six yard touchdown run. The score gave Armwood a window of opportunity at 41-22.

Armwood pushed the window open a little farther with a 12 play, 80 yard touchdown drive. Hickman hit four of his six pass attempts on the drive for 35 yards. Smith (5-11 215) capped the drive with an electrifying 36 yard touchdown run. Hickman found Johnny Carter dragging across the back of the end zone for the two-point conversion that made it a two possession game, trailing 41-30.

Obviously, that would mean stopping the state's all-time leading passer.

Armwood was obviously looking for that as well. Tebow broke loose on a quarterback draw on the first play from scrimmage 70 yards to the Hawks 10 yard line. The Hawks stuffed Owens for a loss of five yards on second down. Two plays later, Tebow hit Ellis for a 13 yard pass to the two-yard line. However, a false start penalty on fourth and goal forced Nease to settle for a 24 yard Alex Amaral field goal.

The Hawks mounted a 2:03 drive that got them to the Panthers 29 yard line, but they failed to capitalize on fourth and ten.

It seemed as though Nease was in control of their first ever state title. On third and ten as Nease attempted to melt the clock, Tebow was sacked for a seven yard loss and fumbled the ball. Doug Thompson recovered the loose ball for Armwood.

Armwood misfired until Hickman hit Lance Tillison on third and 19 for 23 yards. The tipped ball got Armwood to the nine yard line. They called Eric Smith's name on their next third down play and he answered with a three yard score. The PAT was good and Armwood trailed by a single touchdown.

Kicker Darren DeRochmont's onsides kick was near perfect. The Hawks took overwith 1:12 remaining. Running back Matt Brevi was thrown for a seven yard loss on first down. Hickman faced some pressure from the Panthers defensive front, who sacked him four times on the night, during the series. The result was three consecutive incompletions and the Panthers defense made their final stop of the 2005 season, their finest.

Tebow stepped back out on the field and twice took a knee until the final clock ran out on once and for all.

Tebow said after the game that he was happy for the City of St. Augustine. Two champions came emerged from the county, another first. The final post game story on Tim Tebow and Nease after a wonderful season, but he's certain to have plenty of press coverage at his next destination.

*** During the post game interview, somebody placed an Alabama hat on Tebow‘s head. For a few seconds, he continued the interview without realizing, or addressing that it was an Alabama hat. He was asked if the hat was an indication of things…he took it off, looked at it and slightly laughed, saying that he'll make his announcement on Tuesday. He tossed the hat back to linebacker, and Alabama commit, Charlie Kirchman, who was the culprit.


18-27...237 yards and four TDs
27 carries for 153 yards and two touchdowns

Ryan Ellis

8 receptions for 88 yards and three TD's
2 punt returns for 24 yards
1 rush for three yards

Fightin Gators Top Stories