St. Thomas Aquinas breezes past Tampa Bay Tech with 42-14 win in 7A State Championship game
Photo Credit: Sun Sentinel (Michael Laughlin)
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA— The St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders were, per usual, one of the best teams in Florida coming in to the 2021 high school football season. After they beat a very talented St. Frances Academy team on national television to start the year, the Raiders were hit with some adversity. The Jesuit Tigers upset St. Thomas Aquinas in Week 2 of the regular season, putting the Raiders at an unexpected 1-1. Many counted out St. Thomas Aquinas after this game, but they dominated from there on out to prove themselves once again as the best of the best in South Florida.
The Raiders took this dominance all the way to the 7A State Championship game for the third year in a row. This time, they were set to take on the Tampa Bay Tech Titans, led by senior wide receiver and Iowa State Signee, Greg Gaines III. The Titans were 14-0 on the year, and came in with a team they believed could take down a giant. However, the loss in Week 2 continued to drive St. Thomas Aquinas, and they continued to prove to people that they are the best in South Florida.
Anthony Hankerson got the Raiders going early. On 3rd and 1 from the Tampa Bay Tech 30-yard line, Hankerson ran for a 30-yard touchdown, giving St. Thomas Aquinas an early 6-0 lead (PAT no good). After Tampa Bay Tech was forced to punt, Hankerson kept his foot on the gas. The senior running back converted on 4th and 2 for a 1st down, and then ran for a 4-yard touchdown to make the score 14-0 (2-point conversion good).
The Raider offense then took advantage of a poor punt by the Titans, and started their next drive in the Titans’ red zone. This set up Raiders’ quarterback, Zion Turner, for a 1-yard touchdown, giving St. Thomas Aquinas a 21-0 lead to end the first quarter.
Tampa Bay Tech wouldn’t back down that easy, however. Quarterback, Xavione’ Washington, connected with his receivers to bring the Titans to the St. Thomas Aquinas 6-yard line. Washington then found Greg Gaines III for a 7-yard touchdown to put the Titans on the board.
St. Thomas Aquinas didn’t flinch. After Zion Turner completed a pass to wide receiver, Camden Brown, to bring the Raiders to the Tampa Bay Tech 28-yard line, Turner found Brown again for a 22-yard touchdown, making the score 28-7 (PAT good). Both teams then shared punts, and the half ended with the Raiders in the lead 28-7.
The Raider defense started the second half forcing a turnover on downs from Tampa Bay Tech, and they gave the offense the ball at their own 34-yard line. Zion Turner then ran for a large gain to the Tampa Bay Tech 21-yard line. Shortly after, he found Isaiah Hardge for a 21-yard touchdown, extending St. Thomas Aquinas’ lead to 35-7 (PAT good). The St. Thomas Aquinas defense continued to help out the offense. Linebacker, Jordan Smith, intercepted a pass for the Raiders, and gave the offense the ball at their own 44-yard line. After Anthony Hankerson ran for a large gain to the Tampa Bay Tech 16-yard line, he capped off the drive with a 16-yard touchdown run, making the score 42-7 to end the third quarter (PAT good).
Tampa Bay Tech’s goal from here was to go out on a good note. Xavione’ Washington found Greg Gaines III for a long pass to the St. Thomas Aquinas 9-yard line, and running back, Ronald Sims, ran in for a 1-yard touchdown (PAT good). The Raiders were forced to punt on their next possession, but the special teams allowed the offense to keep the ball a bit longer, recovering a fumble at Tampa Bay Tech’s 20-yard line. The offense didn’t need any more time with the ball, however, they just needed to run the clock out. Once they did that, they were crowned 7A State Champions for the second year in a row with a 42-14 win over Tampa Bay Tech.
St. Thomas Aquinas wins their 2nd 7A State Championship in a row, and ends their season with a 14-1 record. With this win, the Raiders extended their state record of state championships to 13. The Tampa Bay Tech end their season with a record of 14-1.