The St. Thomas Aquinas defense is as good as advertised.
Combined with sophomore running back Anthony Hankerson’s 130 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown and the Raiders defeated Deerfield Beach 28-7 on Friday in the 30th renewal of the series.
This is how the defense stacked up for the Raiders, which helped overcome an early 7-0 deficit. It had eight sacks, two blocked punts and two interceptions.
One blocked punt and interception resulted in touchdowns. Throw in three sacks by Derek Wingo, and the Raiders held the Bucks’ offense to 209 yards.
St. Thomas (7-0) now leads the series 18-12 that first began in 1970, has won nine of the past 11 meetings that includes the last three. Aquinas also improved to 11-5 all-time at home against Deerfield.
“It’s important for us at St. Thomas to win every game,” Aquinas coach Roger Harriott said. “Deerfield puts an additional importance on it because they have a history and a great program.”
The Aquinas defense stymied the Bucks offense that had outscored its past five opponents 254-6, while holding them to the fewest points of the season and snapping Deerfield’s five-game winning streak.
Tied at 7-7, Hankerson scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:05 left in the third quarter with a 50-yard run through the middle of the Deerfield defense.
“We always like to establish the run game to help produce opportunities,” Harriott said. “It creates chances while helping the passing game.”
Three plays after the ensuing possession, Bucks senior quarterback and Tulane commit Michael Pratt was picked off by Philjae Bien-Amie, who promptly returned it 17 yards for a touchdown for a momentum-building 21-7 advantage.
Pratt completed only 8-of-17 attempts with two interceptions.
Senior running back Jaedon Henry, who had 56 yards rushing, added a 6-yard scoring run late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
It was a sloppy first half for both sides as the teams went into the break tied at 7.
Deerfield Beach (5-3) took a 7-0 lead with 7:19 left in the first half as Pratt used play action to find University of Miami commit Xavier Restrepo wide open down the middle for the field for a 54-yard scoring pass.
Aquinas, which had a partially blocked earlier in the half, got a full block by Ja’Den McBurrows that was scooped up by Colby Dempsey and returned 35 yards for the tying touchdown with 2:27 left in the half.
Numerous penalties and other mistakes disrupted any offense consistency by either team. The teams combined for 137 yards.
Aquinas can clinch the District 14-7A next week with a victory over Fort Lauderdale. The Bucks can also clinch the District 12-8A title with a win over Monarch.