Flanagan quarterback Ryan Stanley said he has had Friday night’s showdown with longtime rival Miramar in the back of his mind since this summer.
Stanley, the Falcons’ starting quarterback since the final four games of his freshman season, came close to beating the Patriots (7-0, 4-0 in District 12-8A) in each of his first two attempts. But the opportunity slipped away each time in the fourth quarter.
“What would it mean for us to beat Miramar? The world,” said Stanley, a 6-2, 180-pound junior who has the Falcons (7-0, 4-0) on the doorstep of their first district title and playoff berth in school history.
“The last time Flanagan beat Miramar was in 2001. When I see them on film, I saw things St. Thomas could have done to beat them. They just didn’t take advantage of what they should have. We definitely could take advantage of it if we play smart.”
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Miramar, ranked as high as 19th in the country and No. 2 in the Class 8A state poll, has produced four shutouts this season and hasn’t given up a point since St. Thomas kicked a 25-yard field goal on Sept. 20. That was 13 quarters ago.
But none of that shakes the confidence of Stanley, whose long, curly blond hair has earned him the nickname Sunshine from his teammates — an obvious reference to the character in the movie Remember The Titans who played quarterback.
“I could use a better nickname,” Stanley said with a smile. “But Sunshine is all right for now.”
Stanley said he has been growing his hair out since the sixth grade — right around the time he began playing quarterback for Pasadena Lakes with many of his current high school teammates. They won back-to-back Super Bowl titles at 105 and 115 pounds and came to Flanagan together hoping to lead the program to new heights.
Until this year, Miramar, the state runner-up in 2011, and Cypress Bay, the state runner-up last December, stood in their way. Flanagan knocked off Cypress Bay 35-13 on Sept. 20. Beating Miramar, though, appears a much tougher task.
Miramar’s defense is only giving up 73.4 yards passing per game and has produced nine interceptions while allowing a mere 16.9 rushing yards per game. Stanley is completing 62 percent of his passes and has thrown for 1,138 yards and 14 touchdowns in his past five games.
Last year, Stanley threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns on a season-high 65 attempts against the Patriots. His 11-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Malson trimmed Miramar’s lead to 21-16 in the fourth quarter. But the Patriots pulled away with two late touchdowns.
“The underdog doesn’t always lose,” said first-year Flanagan coach Devin Bush, who went from playing on a last-place team in the NFL to winning a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams.
“Cooper City went in a couple years ago and knocked off mighty St. Thomas. Sometimes you can see things on film or you just have a special year. You might have a special game where you’re on task, tearing it up and the ball falls where it may. We’re not going into any game thinking we’re going to lose. No way.”