High School Sports

Led by Mike Harley, Aquinas’ talented receivers deliver another huge performance

Aquinas wide receiver Michael Harley (3) scores in the third quarter as St. Thomas Aquinas plays Tampa Plant for the Class 7A state football title at Camping World Stadium in Orlando on Fri., Dec. 9, 2016.
Aquinas wide receiver Michael Harley (3) scores in the third quarter as St. Thomas Aquinas plays Tampa Plant for the Class 7A state football title at Camping World Stadium in Orlando on Fri., Dec. 9, 2016. adiaz@miamiherald.com

St. Thomas Aquinas quarterback Jake Allen rarely had trouble finding an open receiver this season.

Some believed Allen’s dilemma would be distributing the ball enough.

Aquinas’ pass catchers took it upon themselves to not make it an issue.

“We all had so much talent so we fed off each other,” senior Joshua Palmer said. “If Mike got a score, I wanted a score. If I got a score, Jordan got a score. After our losses we got stronger. We all get an opportunity to eat in this offense so we just work together.”

As evidenced again during Aquinas’ 45-6 rout of Tampa Plant Friday night in the Class 7A state championship game, the Raiders had plenty of catches, yards and scores to go round in the passing game.

Aquinas quarterback Jake Allen talks about the Raiders' 45-6 win over Plant and winning 3 consecutive state titles on Fri., Dec. 9, 2016.

Allen, a University of Florida commitment, completed 17 of 29 passes for 329 yards and threw five touchdown passes.

Three of those scoring connections were caught by West Virginia commitment Mike Harley, who finished with five catches for 133 yards. Harley capped the performance by snagging a 62-yard rainbow throw from Allen in stride that prompted a running clock with 37 seconds left in the third quarter.

Harley was one of seven potential targets committed to FBS schools in Aquinas’ offense.

Palmer, a Syracuse commit, had a game-high six catches for 80 yards and a touchdown on Friday.

Jordan Merrell, an FAU commit, caught three passes for 60 yards and a touchdown.

Jonathan Moore, an FIU commit, caught two passes for 26 yards.

Aquinas coach Roger Harriott talks about his team's 45-6 win over Plant that clinched the Raiders' third consecutive state title.

The quartet, along with Ohio State commit Trevon Grimes, combined to catch 135 passes for 1,908 yards 26 touchdowns this season.

And mostly without Grimes, who after catching 15 passes for 274 yards in Aquinas’ first three games, was lost to a season-ending knee injury on Sept. 30 during the Raiders’ 25-24 triple overtime loss to Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas.

“We came in at the beginning of the season as individuals and we noticed that we needed to play as one unit,” Harley said. “It really didn’t affect us when Trevon went down because we knew the next man had to step up.”

St. Thomas Aquinas running back Mike Epstein talks about the Raiders' 45-6 win over Tampa Plant in the Class 7A state championship game on Fri., Dec. 9, 2016.

Harley finished the season with 29 catches for 440 yards and eight touchdowns. Palmer caught 28 passes for a team-high 464 yards and eight touchdowns. Moore finished with a team-high 35 catches for 402 yards and three touchdowns, and Merrell ended the season with 28 catches for 328 yards and five touchdowns.

“These guys totally bail me out and make me look good,” Allen said. “If I make a bad throw, those guys go get it and bail me out. We wouldn’t have won this today without those guys doing what they do.”

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments