St. Thomas Aquinas gave another impressive demonstration of South Florida dominance late Friday night.
The Raiders added the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to its impressive list of football venues at which they’ve dominated one of the nation’s best, beating defending national champion John Curtis 27-13 in the Sugar Bowl Prep Showcase.
Another South Florida team — Miami Booker T. Washington — is firmly entrenched in the No. 1 spot in the national polls following its own impressive performances over the first three weeks of the season.
But after Aquinas snapped Curtis’ 29-game winning streak in a nationally televised game on Fox Sports, the Raiders gave the area two solid national title contenders.
“It’s always good when you’re shooting for a national title to go up against a team like this,” Aquinas sophomore defensive tackle Nicholas Bosa said. “I think we showed what South Florida football is all about and St. Thomas football.”
South Florida has two more nationally ranked teams — Miami Central (2-1), still ranked as high as No. 4 in spite of its loss two weeks ago to Booker T., and University School (ranked in the top 20). Central plays at Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) next Saturday at 7 p.m.
Aquinas (2-0) is not scheduled to play Booker T. (3-0) this season, and the teams are in different classifications.
The Raiders entered the game already ranked No. 3 nationally by MaxPreps and at least No. 9 in every other poll. Aquinas should move up after improving to 8-1 overall against out-of-state opponents since 2008 and 6-0 on the road, beating top-ranked teams in Ohio, Texas, Alabama and Louisiana.
Aquinas’ defensive players stuck to their assignments well and contained Curtis’ veer-option offense that last season helped the Patriots total 677 points in 14 games.
Bosa finished with three sacks and seven tackles, as he and senior Anthony Moten repeatedly broke through Curtis’ line and put pressure on quarterback Abby Touzet.
Jake Stewart and Hunter Goldberg each recovered a fumble at a key point in the game that prevented Curtis scoring drives.
Curtis (1-1), ranked No. 4 by USA Today, ran for 156 yards, but on 49 carries (3.2 average). The Patriots finished with 264 total yards on 71 plays overall (3.7).
Aquinas finished with a much more efficient performance, totaling 324 yards on 50 plays, including 30 carries for 169 yards rushing.
Mardre London led that effort, finishing with 101 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns. His 61-yard touchdown run on the third play of the second half gave Aquinas a 21-0 lead.
Senior quarterback Wade Freebeck appeared more comfortable as the game progressed and finished 12-of-20 passing for 155 yards and a 31-yard touchdown pass to Devante Peete on the first play of the second quarter for the game’s first score.
Aquinas faces a different yet formidable challenge next week when it hosts rival Miramar on Friday night. The Patriots (3-0) aren’t nationally ranked but have defeated St. Thomas two consecutive seasons and have a team that appears to be a major contender for the Class 8A state championship.
“We know we’re going to get a lot of national recognition for this win and that’s awesome,” Freebeck said. “But we know we have a big challenge ahead of us with [Miramar] this week and we’re looking forward to it.”