The Manatee High School football team has been ranked number 1 since the first week of September. Well, they won’t be next week.
The St. Thomas Aquinas football team was playing the rare role of underdog in the Class 7A state semifinal and shocked the country’s No.1 ranked Hurricanes 35-18 at Brian Piccolo Stadium.
The Raiders (12-2) advance to the 7A state title game against Tallahassee Lincoln at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando next Friday. Aquinas will be playing to win its seventh state title overall and fourth since 2007.
“The effort was unbelievable,” St. Thomas coach Rocco Casullo said. “Our kids were so sick hearing about Manatee. They said we’re good and they did what the coaches told them in all three phases of the game.”
The victory extended Aquinas’ winning streak to nine games and stopped Manatee’s winning streak short at 25 games. The Raiders offensive linemen were the heroes today as they opened huge running gaps for running backs Fred Coppet and Madre London all night. Coppet finished with 131 yards, while London had 123 yards.
“”We knew we could run the ball,” Coppet said. “This feels great because they doubted us. Don’t doubt a team that is really good.”
This may have provided some redemption for the Aquinas team in revenging an old lost winning streak. In ’09 Aquinas was the defending 5A state champs and Manatee ended their season with a 28-20 victory. The defense had to show up for the Raiders to win as well.
“We saw on game film we could take advantage of their defense,” O’Korn said. “We knew if out defense could play well, and they did, we could win. It was a great group effort.”
A great group effort has landed the Raiders in the state title game, where they won’t be ranked number 1 but they could still bring home a ring.