After being upset in last year's playoffs, the Raiders look to quarterback Jacob Rudock and receivers Rashad Greene and Phillip Dorsett to start new season right
By Christy Cabrera Chirinos, Sun Sentinel
It's been nearly eight months, but they still think about it. Still talk about it, too.
At St. Thomas Aquinas, that blustery December night in Bradenton hasn't been forgotten.
A new high school football season is officially here and the Raiders know it's time to turn the page.
But that 28-20 state semifinal loss to Manatee still stings and a trio of the Raiders' senior leaders say they're determined to make sure they don't feel that way again.
"It's never going to be in the past," St. Thomas receiver Phillip Dorsett said. "Sometimes we try to get it out of our minds, but we can't. It makes us play harder though."
Adds quarterback Jacob Rudock: "It's always in the back of our heads and we're using it as fuel. If we're not doing what we need to do in practice, we just say 'Hey, remember last year?' It's pushing us to work harder."
Now as St. Thomas heads to Dallas to open the season at Cowboys Stadium against Skyline (0-1) in the Kirk Herbstreit National Kickoff Classic on Monday, Rudock and receivers Dorsett and Rashad Greene have taken on the responsibility of helping St. Thomas return to the top.
"We take a lot of pride in what this school has done," Dorsett said. "We just need to carry that on and be the best we can be."
At the start of last season, the Raiders were a national media darling.
St. Thomas, winners of two consecutive Class 5A state championships was coming off a 15-0 campaign that saw the program claim the top spot in every major national high school football poll.
They were the favorites to win a third state championship and a second national title. Their win streak grew to 37 games before Manatee's victory ended it all.
Once again, expect St. Thomas to have an efficient, high-powered offense. But even by Raider standards, Rudock, Dorsett and Green have the potential to be special this season. All three have been highly recruited and all three have already made verbal commitments to major college football programs.
In his first year as a varsity starter, Rudock, who is headed to Iowa, completed 128 of 197 passes for 1,945 yards with 34 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
Greene, who chose Florida State, caught 31 passes for 510 yards with 10 touchdowns. Dorsett, a Miami commit, kept pace with 30 catches for 594 yards and 9 touchdowns.
One big factor in those impressive junior-season performances?
The fact Rudock, Green and Dorsett practiced daily against some of the nation's most talented defensive backs, including Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner, Flori da's Cody Riggs and Miami's Keion Payne.
"To be honest, our practices were more like games and games sometimes were like practice," Greene said. "We didn't always see the type of skills those guys had and it only pushed us to be better."
As celebrated as that defensive backfield was a year ago, now much of the spotlight will shine on Rudock, Greene and Dorsett.
They expect opponents like Skyline will key on them in an effort to force St. Thomas to run the ball.
If that's the case, Greene and Dorsett say they're ready to block and help the Raiders young running backs be effective.
As long as the Raiders win, they're happy.
That attitude is part of what St. Thomas coach George Smith makes the trio so effective.
"Those guys are so far from the selfish aspect of the game," Smith said. "They block. They've shown they'll work hard. The chemistry is there. All three of them have been great."