For the first time this season, St. Thomas Aquinas had all seven of its state championship football banners on display in the east end zone.
With the final one, earned in 2012, close to hitting the ground, there doesn’t seem room for another.
It may just be time for the Raiders to invest in a new flag pole.
St. Thomas Aquinas advanced to the Class 7A state title game by steamrolling visiting Tarpon Springs East Lake 45-7 on Friday night.
A victory next week over Kissimmee Osceola (13-1) at the Orlando Citrus Bowl would bring the Raiders (13-1) their eighth state title.
Aquinas’ seven titles are tied for second-most all time in Florida behind Jacksonville Bolles’ 11.
The Raiders have won 12 in a row since losing to New Jersey’s Don Bosco at West Point and have won four postseason games to the combined tune of 192-20.
All four postseason games have gone to a running clock.
“We’re playing at a different level right now,’’ coach Rocco Casullo said. “We could have gone one of two ways after the Bosco game and our staff, I can’t say enough about them, they kept the kids together. ... We know we have a special team.’’
Aquinas (13-1) didn’t score on its first possession of the opening half but would score on four of its following five to take a commanding 24-0 lead in at the half.
Miami commit Jordan Scarlett (15 rushes, 94 yards) got things going with a 3-yard touchdown run with 8:30 left in the first.
Up 10-0 in the second, Aquinas got a 4-yard run from Deltron Sands. With 3:32 left in the half, quarterback Jake Rizzo and Sands hooked up for a 4-yard touchdown toss.
James Oliphant set up two of the scores with long punt returns.
“We just came out and did what we did all week in practice,’’ said Scarlett, who rushed for 94 of Aquinas’ 185 yards in the opening half. The Raiders outgained East Lake 185-19 in the half.
“We tried to put up a shutout, but they got a little something in. Overall, this was a great game. It’s a good feeling. I’m proud to go to states with this team.’’
The Eagles, who end their season 13-1 and in the semifinals for the second consecutive year, finally had good field possession early in the third when Sands fumbled at the Aquinas 40.
East Lake couldn’t get anything going, however, with Aquinas All-American junior Nick Bosa stopping Jake Hudson on a busted play on fourth down at the 33.
The Raiders offense picked right up from there, going 67 yards in just four plays. Rizzo all but iced the game with a 20-yard scoring run around the right side making it 31-0 midway through the third.
The game went to a running clock with just over two minutes left in the period when Rizzo and Sam Bruce connected on a 15-yard score to make it 38-0.
“We finished this game off right,’’ Rizzo said. “We thought it was going to be a close one and we came to play. It was a great game for us. And to have another running clock, I haven’t had to play in the fourth quarter. We play as a team and it happens every time.’’
ST. THOMAS 45,
EAST LAKE 7
STA - Jordan Scarlett 3 run (Zachary Cicero kick)
STA - FG Cicero 26
STA - Deltron Sands 4 run (Cicero kick)
STA - Jake Rizzo 4 pass to Sands (Cicero kick)
STA - Rizzo 20 run (Cicero kick)
STA - Rizzo 15 pass to Sam Bruce (Cicero kick)
EL - Jake Hudson 67 pass to Bryce Miller (Dan Lacamera kick)
STA - Devonta’e Henry Cole 44 run (Cicero kick)
Rushing -- EL: Cedric Frierson 1-2; Drew Couto 6-1; Jake Hudson 2-1; Carson Lydon 1-1; Marshall Kozma 1-0; Xavier Jackson 2-(-6); George Campbell 4-(-7); Dylan Renaker 3-(-9). STA: Jordan Scarlett 15-94; Devonta’e Henry Cole 3-76; Deltron Sands 9-68; Jake Rizzo 2-41; Jaxson Kincalde 2-2; Gerald Lane 1-0.
Passing -- EL: Hudson 8-20-1, 139. STA: Rizzo 7-11-0, 85; Blake Dever 1-1-0, 14.
Receiving -- EL: Trevor Okuniewski 3-32-0; Bryce Miller 2-80-1; Jon Holley 1-22-0; Kyle Fearrington 1-4-0; Cedric Frierson 1-1-0. STA: Juwuan Harris 3-43-0; Sam Bruce 1-20-1; Kincalde 1-14-0; Henry Cole 1-13-0; Sands 1-4-1; Devante Peete 1-4-0.