The ESPN trucks on the St. Thomas Aquinas campus are the biggest clues that Friday night’s football game at Brian Piccolo Memorial Stadium is no ordinary game. And the marching band parading through the hallways Friday morning was another hint.
The three-time defending state champion Raiders, ranked No. 5 in the nation, are hosting No. 3 St. John Bosco of Bellflower, Calif., in a nationally-televised contest that is part of the GEICO ESPN High School Kickoff weekend. The game, which starts at 7 p.m., will be shown on ESPNU.
St. John Bosco arrived in town Tuesday to prepare for the big showdown between the state champions of California and Florida. They practiced at Nova Southeastern University.
“It’s an ESPN game, so the kids are really excited about that,” said St. Thomas Aquinas athletic director George Smith. “As the game gets closer, you can feel the excitement building. We’re hoping the weather holds up.”
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Smith said they typically have a handful of reporters covering their games. He got 45 media credential requests for Friday’s game, including some from California.
It is the third time in the past year that St. Thomas Aquinas plays on national T.V. Last September, the Raiders lost a triple-overtime thriller 25-24 to Nevada Bishop Gorman, and in December they beat Utah Bingham 33-25.
Twenty players from that team are on college rosters this season, but the Raiders have plenty of talented players to take their places. The defense features University of Miami commitment Al Blades, FSU commit Asante Samuel, and Louisville commit Trenell Troutman.
Junior Curt Casteel takes over at quarterback for Jake Allen, who is at the University of Florida. Among the assistant coaches on Roger Harriott’s staff are former Miami Dolphins Jason Taylor and Sam Madison.
Tickets for Friday’s game are $12. They are available at the school until 1:30 p.m. and at the gate starting at 5:45 p.m.
GEICO ESPN High School Kickoff
Who: St. Thomas Aquinas (ranked No. 5 in USA) vs. No. 3 St. John Bosco
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Brian Piccolo Memorial Stadium, Fort Lauderdale
Tickets: $12 at school until 1:30 p.m., at the gate starting 5:45