The St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders (13-0) travel to meet the Bradenton Manatee Hurricanes (12-1) in the Class 5A State Semifinal. The Raiders have reached the semifinal for the sixth consecutive season.
For a half the Blanche Ely Tigers held the powerful Raiders in check, but Ely made crucial mistakes and the Raiders capitalized rallying in the second half for a 28-16 win in the Region 4 Class 5A Final.
The victory is St. Thomas' 37th in a row.
With the Raiders ahead 16-8 late in the third period, Junior DB Marcus Roberson intercepted an Ely pass at the goal ending the Tigers upset bid.
St. Thomas' Keion Payne picked off an Ely pass and scored on a 28 yard return to get the Raiders on the scoreboard in the second quarter.
The Raider defense was lead by Vinnie Mauro with 7.5 tackles along with Sophomore LB Cole Champion with 6.5 stops.
Ely used their speed to pressure Raider QB Jake Rudock and slow down running backs James White and Giovanni Bernard.
The Raider offense settled down in the third quarter taking the lead as Mike Palardy kicked a 18 yard field goal. Lamarcus Joyner, a Florida State University commit, followed with a 3 yard touchdown.
Rashad Greene gathered in a Rudock pass and snaked his way to the end zone for a touchdown. James White finished the Raider scoring with an 11 yard rushing TD sending the Ely fans to the exits.
The Canes are searching for their fifth state title, the first since 1992, when it defeated Fort Lauderdale Dillard. Manatee is looking to reach the State Final for the first time since 1993, when they lost to Miami Southridge.
Look for Aquinas to weather the Hurricanes and continue on their road to another championship final in
Raider Press Box Prediction: Raiders by 14
Nationally top-ranked St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders (12-0) travel to Pompano Beach to face the confident Blanche Ely High School Tigers (11-1) in Round 3 - the Region 4 Class 5A Final. The Tigers have had their eyes on Aquinas since early in the season when they cautioned the Raiders to "watch out".
Aquinas eliminated the South Broward Bulldogs, 63-0, in a Round 2 playoff contest played at Brian Piccolo Memorial Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend. South Broward finished the season with 10-2 mark.
Junior QB Jake Rudock rewrote the Raider record book with his 31st touchdown pass of the season to Phillip Dorsett as St. Thomas built a 49-0 halftime lead. Rudock surpassed the single season TD passes record set by Ryan Becker during the 2008 season. Gavin Sinclair, Rashad Greene and Jamal Wilson were also on the receiving end of Rudock touchdown passes. Rudock also scored a touchdown on a one yard run.
Additional rushing touchdowns were scored by Lamarcus Joyner-4 yards, James White-6 yards, Nick Arena-1 yard and Dami Ayoola-7 yards. White gained 68 yards rushing on six carries taking him over the 1,000 yard mark for the season.
Senior Defensive Lineman Matt Stokes lead the Raider defenders with 4.5 tackles including a sack. Cole Champion added 3.5 tackles from his linebacker position. Michael Paen, John Childress and Thomas Kelleher also recorded sacks.
Once again, Kickers-Mike Palardy and Ben Hopfinger-combined on the point after duties accounting for 9 points after touchdown.
Blanche Ely Tigers
The Tigers are approaching this game with Aquinas as just a bump in their road to a state championship. The Raiders have experienced this same confidence with several of their previous opponents this season; each time sending them away with a loss.
The Tigers are looking to make the Raiders their prey, but the hunted become the hunters on Friday night.
Ely wins the war of words; while the Raiders win on the field, extending their winning streak to 37 and moving on to the state semifinal.
Raider Press Box Prediction: Raiders by 17
AM 1470 WWNN radio will broadcast the game locally. Game coverage will also be available streaming live on the internet at www.wwnnradio.com starting at 7:25 PM.
The undefeated Aquinas Raiders (11-0) face the South Broward Bulldogs (10-1) in a regional semifinal playoff elimination game. Just three weeks ago, the Raiders handed the Bulldogs their only loss of the season, 51-7, in a game that decided the the district championship. The rematch once again will be played at Brian Piccolo Stadium on Friday night.
In Round One of the playoffs, St. Thomas crushed the Coral Springs Colts, 66-8, with a running clock that began at the start of the 3rd quarter. The Aquinas offense rushed for 4 touchdowns and passed for 3; while the defense and special teams added one TD each.
RB James White, only played a half, but the senior scored three times while rushing for 176 yards on 6 carries.
Running back Dami Ayoola scored on a run and a pass reception. Jamal Wilson opened the scoring for the Raiders with a 39 yard touchdown run. Lamarcus "The Freak" Joyner hauled in a 25 yard touchdown pass from QB Jake Rudock (8 passes-6 completions-3 touchdown passes with 117 passing yards).
Senior defensive lineman Dorian Grant blocked a Colt punt and recovered the ball in the end zone for the touchdown. LB Vinnie Mauro was the leading tackler with 5.
Aquinas' Rashad Greene fielded a Coral Springs' punt at the Raider 47 yard line and weaved his way to a 53 yard punt return.
In what's becoming a weekly routine, kicking specialists, Mike Palardy and Ben Hopfinger, combined for 11 kickoffs resulting in 11 touchbacks giving Coral Springs no return yardage. Palardy and Hopfinger have kicked 21 consecutive touchbacks in St. Thomas' last 3 games. The Raiders did not punt. Hopfinger added a 32 yard field goal in the 2nd quarter.
The Raiders look to extend their current winning streaks-35 consecutive games, 11 straight playoff wins-against the Bulldogs and retain their number one national ranking.
There's no dog gone chance for South Broward as the Raiders will extend both of their winning streaks in front of a Thanksgiving weekend crowd of Raider alums. Aquinas plays one game at a time and heads to the Class 5A Regional Final as the Bulldogs season ends.
Raider Press Box Prediction: Raiders by 35
The St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders (10-0) begin defense of their back-to-back Class 5A State Championships against the Coral Springs Colts (7-3) in a regional quarterfinal playoff game Friday at Brian Piccolo Memorial Stadium.
Kicking specialists Ben Hopfinger and Mike Palardy added 5 points after touchdown, as well as, kicking six touchbacks.
Raider defenders stuffed the rushing attack of the Lightning holding Cypress Bay to 99 yards on 53 carries and 107 yards total offense. Leading tacklers for Aquinas were John Childress with 8.5, Dean Fillichio with 4.5, Rey Kirton and Vinnie Mauro both with 4.