Harrison Story was intercepted five times, and Western fell victim to Atlantic’s vaunted defense in a 35-22 loss in the Region 3-Class 8A final.
The best season in Western history ended at 10-3. The Wildcats, who were 0-6 in postseason games before this year, had scored upsets at Deerfield Beach in the first round and Palm Beach Central in the second round.
The host Eagles (11-1) have won 11 in a row and will host to Miami Senior High next Friday in a Class 8A state semifinal. They returned two interceptions for touchdowns. Atlantic gave up more than 14 points for the first time all season, but that was only after they took a 35-6 lead.
“Their defense played extremely well, and we made far too many mistakes against an excellent football team,” Western coach Adam Ratkevich said. “Atlantic has a hell of a pass rush and [Story] was under pressure, and they made plays when they needed to.”
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Story, a senior, completed 17 of 31 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran 13 times for 73 yards.
Atlantic instantly took a 7-0 lead when a teammate pitched the opening kickoff to Oyeh Lurry-Davis, who advanced it 70 yards for a touchdown.
Western threatened to tie the game on its second possession, but Story’s 11-yard run on third-and-8 from the Atlantic 30 was wiped out by a penalty. On the next snap, Story was picked off by Corey Gammage at the 10-yard line. Gammage returned the ball to the Western 47, and two plays later, Lurry-Davis caught a pass on the left sideline and eluded the Wildcats defense for a 47-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Early in the second quarter, Western blocked an Atlantic punt and got the ball on the Eagles 19. Three plays later, Story connected with Keshaun Clarke for a 14-yard touchdown. A failed 2-point conversion left the score 14-6 with 9:22 left in the half.
Western’s first possession of the second half was a disaster. The Wildcats fumbled the ball and recovered it at their 1. Three plays later, Kenih Lovely intercepted a pass and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown and a 21-6 lead.
Later in the third quarter, Atlantic’s Christian Brown returned an interception 60 yards to push the lead to 28-6. After Atlantic went ahead 35-6 early in the fourth quarter, Story connected with Jaeden Fagan on deep touchdown passes of 47 and 45 yards only 14 seconds apart — Western had a successful onside kick in between — to get the Wildcats within 35-22 with 1:25 remaining, but the ensuing onside kick was covered up by Atlantic, who ran out the clock.
“I’m sad to see it end, but I’m very proud of them,” said Ratkevich, who will lose 21 starters to graduation.
Class 3A state semifinal — Chaminade-Madonna 49, Clearwater Central Catholic 3: Daelen Menard threw three touchdown passes and Shaun Shivers ran for two touchdowns as Chaminade-Madonna controlled the game from start to finish.
The Lions (10-2) advanced to the state finals for the second consecutive season and will face West Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy on Dec. 9 at 10 a.m. at Camping World Stadium in Orlando as they try to win their third-ever state title.
Menard hooked up with Alabama commit Xavier Williams for two touchdown passes and found Marvin Alexander, a Kentucky commitment, for a 51-yard score.
Shivers, an Auburn commit, broke touchdown runs of 40 and 76 yards.
Te’Cory Couch had a late interception for Chaminade’s defense.
Thad Franklin and Carlton Williams each had late touchdown runs.
Class 2A state semifinal — Champagnat Catholic 38, Tampa Cambridge Christian 0: The Lions (8-2) are heading back to the state finals for the second consecutive season and earned a rematch with Jacksonville University Christian on Dec. 8 at 10 a.m. at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
Johnquai Lewis returned an interception and a kickoff for touchdowns.
Quarterback Desjaun Kearse threw three touchdown passes. Two of those went to Leon McClain, who also made a great catch on a two-point conversion. Kearse also connected on a touchdown to Jahani Wright.
▪ Belen Jesuit 1, Archbishop McCarthy 0: Sebastian Restrepo lone goal.