IT'S REALLY A SHAME SOMEONE HAD TO LOSE LAST NIGHT
Congratulations to the Dreadnaughts of Lakeland High School, who won their 45th straight football game and third consecutive 5A state championship 45-42 against Fort Lauderdale's St. Thomas Aquinas at Dolphins Stadium in Miami.
This was the third straight title game against STA, and the fourth in six years these two teams have faced off for all the marbles. That said, you've simply got to give the Raiders team credit for never giving up, and in the process making one of the greatest comebacks in recent prep football memory. STA scored 35 points in the fourth quarter to force the game into overtime, and both teams put the ball into the end zone in the first extra period.
For the uninitiated: In Florida high school football, in an overtime the ball is put on the ten yard line, and each team gets one set of downs to score.
In the second OT, Lakeland scored a field goal. STA gets their set of downs, choosing to gamble for the win on fourth down and try for what would have been the winning touchdown. Instead, the Dreadnaught defense stopped the Raiders inches from the goal line for the victory.
Lakeland star running back Chris Rainey had another spectacular game, rushing for 276 yards and three TDs, but the performance was shadowed by his comments to the Miami Herald earlier in the week, in which he claimed that he was given clothes, jewelry, and money in violation of Florida High School Activities Association rules. While the Polk County School District cleared him, the state association is conducting it's own investigation which could result in LHS being stripped of it's championship as well as having to forfeit some or all it's games this season. And his running off at the mouth could possibly cost him his scholarship to the University of Florida, as he could lose his amateur status.
Regardless of what happens, it was a great game, and another chapter has been written in this blossoming rivalry.
One other note from last night: I listened to much of the second half on WLKF radio, and as someone who was in the radio business for the better part of two decades, I was embarrassed for the two announcers who were calling the game. It was one of the worst sports broadcasts I have ever heard, and I've listened to more than my share of small town Gene Deckerhoff/Mick Hubert wannabees.
For the record, the best high school play-by-play announcer in the local area is Tom Thornburg, who owns WWBF-AM in Bartow and calls the Bartow HS Yellowjackets games.