St. Thomas Aquinas has been automatic the past five seasons when it comes to winning big games outside of Florida.
The Raiders made it six in a row Friday night with their most impressive win yet.
Led by a dominant defensive performance, St. Thomas Aquinas defeated defending national champion John Curtis Christian (La.) 27-13 in a battle of top 10 nationally-ranked teams at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Aquinas (2-0), ranked No. 3 by MaxPreps, snapped John Curtis’ 29-game winning streak and improved 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.
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The Raiders are also 10-1 in nationally-televised games during that span.
“This is great because our kids had a great trip here and got to see New Orleans yesterday a little bit,” St. Thomas Aquinas coach Rocco Casullo said. “To come and get a win like this against a great program like John Curtis is great for our program.”
The performance was another strong showing by a highly-ranked South Florida high school football team in front of a national television audience.
Aquinas’ victory, which was broadcast by Fox Sports and was part of the Sugar Bowl Prep Showcase, came three weeks after Miami Booker T. Washington, the nation’s consensus top-ranked team, routed then No. 6 ranked Norcross (Ga.) 55-0. The next chance for a South Florida team comes next Saturday when nationally-ranked Miami Central travels to New Jersey to take on Don Bosco Prep at 7 p.m.
“It’s always good when you’re shooting for a national title to go up against a team like this,” sophomore Nicholas Bosa said. “I think we showed what South Florida football and St. Thomas football is all about.”
From the outset, Aquinas kept its discipline on defense and contained Curtis’ veer option offense that last season helped the Patriots total 677 points in 14 games.
“I thought we had a great defensive game plan and our guys did a great job playing assignment football the whole game,” Casullo said. “I thought our defensive coordinator Bill Tierney did a great job and the kids executed well.”
Bosa led Aquinas’ defense 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.
“We had a chip on our shoulder because some people didn’t pick us to win,” London said. “We had to come out and play hard knowing they’re a national championship team.”
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.
“Something he’s getting better at each week is settling into games and making the right reads,” Casullo said.
John Curtis tried speeding up the game late with some no-huddle offense and picked up a couple of late scores. The Patriots had a chance to cut the deficit to two scores down 24-6 with 8:33 left in the fourth. But on fourth and 5 at the Aquinas 48, the Raiders defense stopped them again with Natrone Barnes breaking up a pass that would have been a first down if caught.
Aquinas returns home to face Miramar (3-0) next Friday at 7 p.m. The Patriots have defeated Aquinas each of the past two seasons.