St. Thomas Aquinas forced four second-half turnovers and overcame a three-point halftime deficit to defeat Plantation 16-6 at PAL Field on Friday night to capture the District 15-7A championship.
But it was a fourth-and-6 play that was the difference. Leading 10-6 with just under four minutes to play, St. Thomas decided to go for it from the Plantation 30-yard line rather than attempt a 47-yard field goal.
Expecting a blitz from Plantation, Aquinas ran a backside screen play that was perfectly called and executed. Quarterback Wade Freebeck drew the defenders in and found Deltron Sands, who did the rest behind a convoy of blockers as he put the game out of reach with 3:42 to play.
“You always have one play in your back pocket for certain situations,’’ Aquinas coach Rocco Casullo said. “That was it right there. We knew they were going to bring the house. Wade did a great job holding on to the last second and Deltron did the rest. That was great execution. We needed that.”
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Trailing 6-3 at the break, St. Thomas (8-1, 4-0) took its opening possession 73 yards on 11 plays and finished the drive on a 10-yard touchdown run by Freebeck, giving the Raiders a 10-6 lead. Freebeck keyed the score the play before on a 23-yard pass to Devante Pette on third-and-11 from the Colonels’ 33-yard line.
On the next play, Freebeck faked the handoff and took the quarterback option right to the end zone. Plantation (7-2, 3-1) had its chances in the second half, but the Colonels fumbled twice, including once on a bad snap that killed a fourth-quarter drive.
Two interceptions were also costly. The first by Natrone Barnes set up the game-clinching score by Sands. The second by Claudeny Jeudy ended it.
But it was the fumble on a snap over QB Chris Lammons’ head that took the wind out of Plantation.
Trailing 10-6 and at the 50-yard line, the snap was recovered by Aquinas’ Christopher Hart at the Plantation 28-yard line. While the Colonels held and got the ball back on downs, Lammons was lost on that defensive possession due to a hip pointer.
“You can’t do that,’’ Plantation coach Steve Davis said. “When you turn the ball over I knew the second half was going to come down to a big play, a turnover. I think that snap that went over [Lammons’] head. I feel that drive, we were going to make something happen. Our kids, they’ll learn.” Davis feared losing his star quarterback playing defense.
“Hip pointer on the tackle. That’s why I hesitate to put him in at defensive back because a thing like that can happen. He’s so important to our overall team, so when that happens, it puts a knife in us,” Davis said.
The Colonels opened strong.
They drove 15 plays and 90 yards, chewing up almost seven minutes and scored on a 14-yard touchdown run by Markel Yarbough.
It appeared Yarbough fumbled at the 2 and through the end zone, but the play was ruled a touchdown and Plantation led 6-0.
St. Thomas didn’t get on the scoreboard until the final minute of the first half with an 18-yard field goal, cutting it to 6-3 going into the break.