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  • Tyler Harden

Dominant defense leads St. Thomas Aquinas to a 33-23 victory over American Heritage

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FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA—St. Thomas Aquinas and American Heritage are not only two of the best high school football programs in Florida, but also some of the best programs in the nation. Both teams were looking to end their regular season with a meaningful win. St. Thomas Aquinas was still trying to redeem themselves after an upset loss to Cardinal Gibbons two weeks ago. At the same time, American Heritage, lead by 5-star Miami Commit, James Williams, wanted to knock off a powerhouse, and have great momentum headed into the playoffs next week. At the end of the night, St. Thomas Aquinas got their wish. 

St. Thomas Aquinas started the first quarter off string, as Tyreak Sapp came up with the sack on third down to force the first American Heritage turnover of the game. Sapp, a 4-star defensive end, is committed to the University of Florida. The Raiders got the ball with good field position at the American Heritage 42-yard line. Running back, Anthony Hankerson, ran the ball to the 16-yard line, and Bralon Brown caught the ball to bring the Raiders to the American Heritage center 1-yard line. However, the Raiders couldn’t get in the end zone, as the American Heritage defense came up with a big stop on 4th and 1. 

The Patriots took over on their own 1-yard line, and a bad snap on the first play of the drive was recovered by Christian Gonzalez in the end zone to give the Raiders a 6-0 lead (PAT blocked no good). After a three and out by American Heritage, St. Thomas Aquinas running back, Anthony Hankerson, ran the ball on a pitch to the American Heritage 20-yard line. Corey Reddick then ran the ball to the American Heritage 1-yard line. At the 1-yard line, St. Thomas Aquinas quarterback, Zion Turner, scrambled, took it himself, and dove in the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown (PAT good). After a strong run by sophomore American Heritage running back, Mark Fletcher, to the St. Thomas Aquinas 35-yard line, the Raiders had a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The St. Thomas Aquinas defense came up big again at the start of the second quarter. Defensive lineman, Kylan Stephens, intercepted a pass, took it 65 yards to the end zone for a touchdown, and gave the Raiders a 20-0 lead (PAT good). 

Despite being down 20 points, American Heritage wouldn’t go away. Quarterback, Vinson Davis III, found room to run after a fake to Mark Fletcher, and ran 58 yard into the end zone to give American Heritage their first points of the game (PAT good). The American Heritage defense then found their rhythm, and controlled the Raider offense. The Patriot offense took advantage, as Vinson Davis flipped the ball to Mark Fletcher, and he ran for a 16-yard touchdown (PAT good). St. Thomas Aquinas had a 20-14 lead going into halftime.

The momentum from the American Heritage defense carried over into the second half, as they were coming up with early stops. After a forced St. Thomas Aquinas punt, Vinson Davis ran the ball 62 yards on 3rd and 8 to the Raider 10-yard line. Davis then kept it himself again, and ran to the 1-yard line. The Patriots couldn’t get in the end zone, however, and were forced to settle for a 23-yard field goal. But St. Thomas Aquinas answered. After Zion Turner converted on 3rd and 1, and a 13-yard gain by Anthony Hankerson, Hankerson ran the ball again, and was untouched for a 21-yard touchdown. By the end of the third quarter, the Raiders had a 26-17 lead.

The St. Thomas Aquinas defense started the final quarter doing what they had been doing all game, making an impact. Dallas Turner popped the ball out of the American Heritage running back’s hands, Derrien Craig recovered it for St. Thomas Aquinas, and ran the ball into the end zone for the third defensive touchdown of the game (PAT good). American Heritage still wouldn’t go away, as Boogsie Silvera blocked a punt on 4th down, and the Raiders recovered at their own 2-yard line. This gave the ball to American Heritage with the excellent field position they needed. Vinson Davis took advantage, and ran the ball 2 yard into the end zone for a touchdown. In attempt to stay in the game, American Heritage went for two, and couldn’t get it. St. Thomas Aquinas secured a 33-23 win over American Heritage.

St. Thomas Aquinas moves to 3-1 on the season, and American Heritage falls to 5-2. Both teams head into playoffs next week, and their matchups are to be determined.

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