Chamiande-Madonna needed someone — anyone — to make a play. To stop the bleeding. To put the Lions back into contention in a Class 3A state championship game against West Palm Beach’s King’s Academy after falling behind by double-digits.
Te’Cory Couch took it upon himself to be that player. The Miami Hurricanes commit intercepted a pass down the left sideline to give Chaminade-Madonna life. Chamiande rolled from there, putting the early scare behind it and winning its second consecutive state title with a 38-10 win on Saturday at Camping World Stadium. The win secured Chaminade (12-2) its fourth state football title.
“It feels different,” said third-year Chaminade coach Dameon Jones, still drenched from the Gatorade shower his players gave him in the waning seconds of the game. “Remember, last year was my first [as head coach]. ... I’m just happy for them.”
King’s Academy (12-2) held a 10-0 lead one play into the second quarter on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Justin Wake to Cory Croteau and a 37-yard field goal by Bernie Cueto on a pair of drives that featured five Chaminade defensive penalties and a pair of chunk plays from the King’s offense.
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And then, almost like clockwork, Chaminade began to look like the team that had dominated just about every team it faced all season long. It looked like the team with 14 starters who hold Division 1 offers — including six defensive starters already committed to play at Power 5 schools. It looked like the clear favorite.
It started with Couch’s interception, which set up the first of two first-half touchdowns from running back Willie Davis, a 14-yard scamper to cut Chaminade’s deficit to 10-7.
Cameron Williams, another Miami Hurricanes commit, recorded a pair of quarterback hurries and split a sack with TCU commit Thomas Armstrong on the following drive to force a three-and-out. The Chaminde offense responded with a nine-play, 87-yard drive capped by another Davis touchdown, this one from 13 yards to give Chaminade a 14-10 lead heading into the half.
Davis, who assumed the starting role after sophomore and UM commit Thad Franklin broke his collarbone in the state semifinal against Clearwater Central Catholic, finished with 83 rushing yards and the two touchdowns on 17 carries.
“Me and Thad, we have a good relationship,” Davis said. “We knew if one goes down, another one could pick each other up. I felt like I had to pick up the weight for him, do it for him.”
A 71-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Daelen Menard to Elijaih Canion on the first play of the second half, a 16-yard pass from Menard to Penn State commit John Dunmore, a 27-yard Carter Davis field goal and a Deidrick Stanley punt return with eight seconds left accounted for second-half scoring.
Menard finished with 218 yards on 14-for-22 passing, the two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Dunmore hauled in four catches for 58 yards.
The defense recorded nine tackles for loss, six sacks and five quarterback hurries. Armstrong had 12 tackles and a team-best 3.5 tackles for loss.
“We knew they can’t play with us,” Couch said. “We just had to be ourselves and once we were ourselves, from there it was on.”
The game closed out another solid year for Chamiande-Madonna, one that saw the Lions go 12-2 with its lone losses coming against Class 8A state semifinalist Deerfield Beach and perennial Class 5A power Plantation American Heritage. Chaminade held nine of its 14 opponents to fewer than 10 points and gave up just 13 points during its four playoff wins.
“We were battle-tested,” Jones said. “I love playing bigger schools. I love playing that competition win, lose or draw. At the end of the day, you find out what you’ve got. That’s why you play those guys. The schedule we played was tough. And guess what? Next year, I don’t plan on it being any different.”