On Friday night, St. Thomas Aquinas took care of Lakeland by the score of 56-7. The Raiders were excellent on offense, averaging 10 yards per play and more than 10 yards per carry on the ground. A big reason for their success was because of the standout play of their best offensive lineman, junior tackle Brandon Linder, who already has an offer from the Hurricanes. Linder helped the Raiders open up big holes all night and he helped protect quarterback Ryan Becker, as the unit did not allow a single sack on the night. Linder has now started two years in a row for a state championship team, as he'll be shooting for a three-peat as a senior next season.
In the 4A final on Saturday afternoon, it was the Orson Charles show as Plant defeated Tallahassee Lincoln by the score of 34-14. Charles, the best player on the field for either team, finished the game with six catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Even though he led all receivers in yards, it was his presence that made a big difference too, as it forced Lincoln to roll its safety over to his side the entire game. Nebraska-bound cornerback DeAndre Byrd was locked on Charles all day, while four-star free safety Jawanza Starling provided help over the top. It didn't matter, as Charles had a field day. He was also excellent on defense, finishing the game with three tackles and a sack. While those aren't staggering numbers, he was constantly putting pressure on Lincoln's quarterback, forcing him to change the direction of the play and causing him to make mistakes. It marked the second time in three years that Plant won a 4A title, while Charles won his first after transferring in from Riverview High during the offseason.
In the Class 6A final on Saturday night, the trio of elite prospects from Sanford Seminole put on a show. After falling behind to two-time defending champ Miami Northwestern 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, Seminole and their elite trio went to work. They scored the game's final 28 points, defeating the Bulls by the score of 28-21.
Quarterback Ray Ray Armstrong finished the game with 21 carries for 114 yards and one touchdown on the ground. He was 5-of-6 passing for 98 yards and one touchdown. Defensively, while playing safety, he had five tackles and a key fumble recovery late in the game. The game's MVP had a tremendous night and was at his best when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter. Armstrong is strongly considering the Hurricanes and there's a good chance that's where he'll sign in early February.
Five-star Andre Debose finished the game with 184 total yards (65 rushing, 51 receiving, and 68 in the return game) and three touchdowns -- including a game-winner with about 30 seconds left that's as good a catch as you'll ever see at the high school level. Debose is strongly considering Miami along with Florida and LSU.
Four-star defensive end Dyron Dye finished the game with just one sack but did a nice job applying pressure in the second half. He also caught a couple key passes late in the game for 31 yards. Dye is strongly considering the Hurricanes as well. All three Seminole players are expected to announce their college destinations at the Under Armour All-American Game on Jan 4.
In a losing effort, Northwestern junior defensive tackle Todd Chandler (a Miami commitment) was excellent. He finished the game with five tackles and a caused fumble but was a handful to block from the start of the game because of his rare combination of strength and quickness.
In other news outside of Florida, quarterback commitment A.J. Highsmith and his team lost in the Texas state championships by the score of 21-14. According to the Houston Chronicle, Highsmith had over 200 yards passing in a losing effort.
Congratulations to all the state champions this season.