Dolphins High school Media day at Hard Rock Stadium
Traveling 3,000 miles to the West Coast turned out to be well worth the trip for the St. Thomas Aquinas football team on Friday night.
The Raiders, ranked No. 1 in the nation in the USA Today Super 25, faced a tough season-opening contest on the road in a nationally televised contest on ESPNU against another national power, De La Salle, on the Spartans’ home field in Concord, California. They return home from the Geico High School Football Showcase with a well-earned 24-14 victory.
“An extremely hard fought game tonight and we were just very fortunate that the ball bounced our way a few more times than it bounced their way,” Aquinas head coach Roger Harriott said. “We still have a lot of things to clean up but we feel very fortunate to get out of here with a win.”
Things certainly didn’t start well for Harriott and his players as De La Salle, ranked No. 18 in the country in MaxPreps Xcellent 25, shocked the Raiders by going up 7-0 just 43 seconds into the game. That after Spartans running back Shamar Garrett bolted 57 yards on the game’s first play to Aquinas’ 3-yard line before James Coby scored on the next play.
But the Raiders, ranked No. 10 in the Max Preps Xcellent 25, didn’t panic and, in fact, came back and dominated the remainder of the first quarter and the first half of the second.
Following the quick Spartans score, a long kickoff return by ThéAndris Freeman gave St. Thomas good field position at midfield. The Raiders then quickly drove 48 yards in just seven plays before sophomore quarterback Zion Turner, making his first start, zipped around the right side from 10 yards out on a quarterback keeper and it was 7-7.
After the teams traded punts, it was time for the spectacular play of the night and one that wound up No. 2 on ESPN’s Top 10 later in the night.
It came with 2:57 left in the first when Turner dropped back and heaved a long one down the right sideline for Marcus Rosemy.
When it looked like the deep ball might be a bit overthrown, the Georgia commit then showed why he is No. 45 overall in ESPN’s Top 300 and the No. 4 wide receiver when he reached out with his right hand, bobbled the ball and brought it in one handed. He then outraced Coby, who plays both ways, the final 30 yards to the end zone and St. Thomas had a 14-7 lead.
“It was a big catch by Marcus,” Harriott said. “We had that one-on-one battle, gave him an opportunity to make a play and he did. It was a terrific effort.”
It went to 21-7 early in the second when Turner, who only threw nine passes all night with four completions for 100 yards, dropped back from the De La Salle 16, tossed a perfect ball to the corner and found Freeman for the touchdown.
De La Salle quickly counter-punched two minutes later when Coby broke loose for a 43-yard touchdown run to trim the St. Thomas lead to seven before the game settled into a back and forth affair with either team rarely threatening the other’s red zone.
The lone exception came one minute before halftime when the Spartans made it down to the St. Thomas 10. But a bad exchange on a hand off left the ball on the ground and Aquinas’ Anthony Hankerson recovered.
With the game still very much in doubt, the biggest play of the night came with just more than seven minutes left.
Facing a fourth-and-4 at the St. Thomas 30, De La Salle quarterback Dorian Hale found LuMagia Hearns in the right flat, but, even though it didn’t look like Hearns had possession of the ball long enough, Jaden Gold stripped him of the ball. Colby Dempsey scooped up the loose ball and took off running, getting all the way to the De La Salle 28. Four plays later, Noah Botsford drilled a 38-yard field goal right down the middle with 4:23 to play to give the Raiders their 10 point cushion and put things away.