With both teams in the playoffs, rivals St. Thomas Aquinas and Deerfield Beach were playing tune-up football in their regular season finale on Friday night.
The host Raiders, working toward their seventh state championship since 1992, weren’t anywhere near perfect but took advantage of one Deerfield mistake after another en route to a 45-0 victory.
Aquinas, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of the school’s first state championship team, moved to 8-2 and will host Miami Beach in the opening round of the Class 7A state playoffs.
Deerfield Beach, 5-5 after an 0-3 start, took second place in District 11-8A in a playoff this past Monday and will visit Cypress Bay next week.
After the game, coach Rocco Casullo told his team they had five weeks left to make this season something special.
“Hey, a win is a win. Our defense came up huge,” said Casullo, whose team scored 31 of its points off Deerfield Beach turnovers. “Our special teams came up huge and our coverage teams come up huge and that’s what we need.”
Aquinas was first to make a mistake Friday but the Bucks soon took over in that department. Deerfield failed to convert after the Raiders fumbled away their first possession then muffed a punt in what would have been the second.
When the Raiders got the ball back with 3:07 left in the first, they went 75 yards in just five plays with quarterback John O’Korn busting up the middle for a 13-yard score.
Deerfield’s Artez Levine was then intercepted by Chris Washington at the 30 as Aquinas took over at the 8. Tight end/fullback Jonathan Boozer, who is a center on the Aquinas hockey team in the winter months, bulled his way into the end zone on the next play to make it 14-0 early in the second quarter.
The Raiders were able to get a short field goal at the end of the first half when Deerfield’s punter bobbled the snap deep in his own territory.
Deerfield looked to get something going in third after it was able to take over at the Aquinas 39 after two penalties on a punt. Only Levine fumbled at midfield and STA linebacker Javaris Hendricks snapped it up and sprinted 52 yards for a 24-0 lead.
Aquinas padded its lead in the fourth off a third Deerfield turnover when O’Korn ran in from the 30 on the opening play of the quarter.
• Cooper City 28, Flanagan 27: Cooper City coach Art Taylor called his team’s effort against Flanagan the best of the season. In a tied game at 21, defensive back Kahlil Ruffin’s 12-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Cowboys the lead with 1:03 remaining in regulation.
When the Falcons got the ball back, they took advantage of a celebration penalty, an out-of-bounds kickoff and a pass interference to quickly strike back. With 20.3 seconds left, quarterback Ryan Stanley threw his third touchdown pass — a 14-yarder to Dylan Malson that deflected off a defender’s hands — for their second connection of the night.
But Flanagan (6-4) elected to go for two points and Christopher Nealy couldn’t convert as host Cooper City (5-5) held on, on senior night.
Christina De Nicola
• Western 35, Nova 22: Brayon Parrish lead Western (7-3) with 91 yards rushing, a pair of rushing scores and one receiving as the Wildcats beat the Titans (4-6).
• Taravella 42 Pine Charter 14: The last game of their season wasn’t taken lightly by the Trojans. Taravella (8-2) defeated Pine Charter (1-9). Even with being eliminated from the playoffs by Deerfield Beach earlier in the week, the Trojans were playing for respect, scoring 42 points in the first half.