As the final moments of a historic victory counted down, the guy who started the whole thing stood next to the man moving it into the future.
George Smith, the patriarch of St. Thomas Aquinas football, enjoyed the end of Friday’s Class 7A state championship victory with a familiar view as he stood next to current coach Roger Harriott on the Raiders sideline.
Aquinas’ dominant 45-6 victory over Tampa Plant cemented the Raiders’ spot among Florida’s top football programs as they became just the second Florida program to win 10 state titles.
The Raiders are also the first Broward County program to win three consecutive championships.
“Our kids had their backs to the wall after losing in Las Vegas and the decided to show everyone who they really are,” Smith said as Aquinas players celebrated around him on a chilly night at the Citrus Bowl.
“They really did a great job. We are all really proud of this team.”
Harriott completed his second season as coach at his alma mater and made sure Smith was by his side at the end of the game.
Smith remains the school’s athletic director after retiring as coach following the Raiders’ win over Plant in the 2010 title game.
Although Smith still watches his Raiders from the sideline, Harriott made sure his guy was next to him to watch the end of this one.
After all, back in 1992, Smith had Harriott close by when Aquinas won its first state championship. Smith was the coach for Aquinas’ first six titles, with Rocco Casullo winning two before leaving for Mater Academy after the Raiders’ 2014 championship.
“I love having George there, this is all for him from where I stand,” said Harriott, a sophomore running back on that 1992 title team who left a job at FAU to replace Casullo.
“The least we can do is give back to him because he has given us and this school so much. I have always looked up to Coach Smith, going back to when I was in elementary school. It’s an honor and privilege to stand by his side, be able to share this awesome experience with him.”
As for a young Harriott being told Aquinas would eventually win 10 state championships all those years ago?
“I would have said you were crazy,” he said with a laugh.
Smith had plenty to smile about early on Friday (Harriott didn’t crack a grin until after the game) as the Raiders got things going in a hurry after punting on their first possession.
Aquinas (12-2) scored on its second and third possessions of the night to lead 14-0 going into the second quarter as their student section was chanting for Plant to “go home” up 21-0.
Aquinas held a 31-6 lead at halftime and got its fifth and final mercy rule game of the postseason when quarterback Jake Allen (329 yards) and Mike Harley (133) hooked up for their third touchdown of the night in the final seconds of the third.
The Raiders outscored its five playoff opponents 213-24 as each postseason game went to a running clock as they have won seven of the past 10 state championships.
That is winning in a dominating fashion.
“Couldn’t have closed it out any better than this,” said Allen, who is committed to Florida.
“To send off to college this way … it’s just a great moment for all of us. I love these guys. I’m going to miss it.”