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  • Tyler Harden

St. Thomas Aquinas wins 12th state championship to break state record

Photo Credit: @hssportsfl

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA— The St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders and the Edgewater Eagles were set to meet in a rematch for the 7A State Championship. Last year, St. Thomas Aquinas came away with a 28-23 win, but there was more on the line this year than just a state championship. The Raiders were one state championship away from breaking the state record of most state championships by a school in Florida. But Edgewater, led by Alabama signee, Christian Leary, and Arizona State signee, Tommi Hill, had a different plan. The Eagles were set to get revenge from last year’s state championship, and keep St. Thomas Aquinas from breaking the record.

The St. Thomas Aquinas defense forced a punt from Edgewater on their first possession, and Ja’Den McBurrows returned the punt to their own 44-yard line. Zion Turner then completed two passes to bring the Raiders to the Edgewater 6-yard line. Running back, Anthony Hankerson, then capped off the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run to put St. Thomas Aquinas up 7-0 (PAT good). But Edgewater had an answer, as the offense marched all the way down to the St. Thomas Aquinas 11-yard line. The Raiders’ defense kept control, however, and forced a field goal attempt on 4th and 14. But the Eagles missed the field goal, and St. Thomas Aquinas took over at their own 19-yard line. After Anthony Hankerson ran for a 1st down to their own 41-yard line, and Zion Turner completed a pass to Camden Brown for a 1st down to the Edgewater 47-yard line, the first quarter ended with St. Thomas Aquinas leading 7-0.

With the momentum St. Thomas Aquinas had on offense at the end of the first quarter, the Edgewater defense still found a way to force a 4th down and a punt. Tommi Hill and running back, Cedric Baxter, led the Eagles all the way to the St. Thomas Aquinas 15-yard line. Baxter continued to run strong from there, as he dodged defenders and ran in for a touchdown to tie the game at 7 (PAT good).

The Edgewater defense came up big again, forcing another St. Thomas Aquinas punt on their next possession. However, the Eagles’ offense couldn’t continue their momentum, as Christian Leary fumbled after taking the snap from wildcat formation, and Derrieon Craig recovered for St. Thomas Aquinas at the Edgewater 27-yard line. The Raiders were able to take advantage of the good field position, as Anthony Hankerson broke tackles and ran in the end zone for his second touchdown of the day, and gave St. Thomas Aquinas a 14-7 lead (PAT good).

The Raiders’ wouldn’t stop there, as Ja’Den McBurrows intercepted a pass, and returned it for a touchdown to put St. Thomas Aquinas up 21-7 (PAT good). Edgewater wouldn’t go away, however, as quarterback, Canaan Mobley, led the Eagles all the way to the St. Thomas Aquinas 4-yard line. Cedric Baxter did the rest, as he reached for the plyon for a 6-yard touchdown run (PAT good). The second quarter ended shortly after, and St. Thomas Aquinas had a 21-14 lead going into halftime.

The Edgewater defense started the second half out strong, forcing a 3 and out on the Raiders’ first offensive possession. Mobley then completed a pass to Jeremiah Connelly on third down, and a pass interference call brought them to their own 40-yard line. On the next play, Cedric Baxter ran for the Eagles’ longest run play of the night, as he tip-toed down the sideline to the St. Thomas Aquinas 27-yard line. But the Edgewater offense couldn’t continue their rhythm, as Mobley’s pass was intercepted by Jerrod Cameron, and the Raiders took over at their own 17-yard line. As Anthony Hankerson was leading the Raiders down the field, he went down with an injury in Edgewater territory with less than 5 minutes in the third quarter. St. Thomas Aquinas was forced to kick a field goal on 4th down to take a 24-14 lead.

Jeremiah Connelly found room to run for Edgewater to their own 43-yard line for a 23-yard gain. Connelly ran the ball for another first down, and back-to-back penalties on St. Thomas Aquinas brought the Eagles to the Raiders’ 30-yard line. After Christian Leary took a wildcat snap and ran to the Raiders’ 5-yard line, Connelly capped off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run (PAT good). The third quarter ended with St. Thomas Aquinas up 24-21.

Zion Turner led the Raiders to the Edgewater 9-yard line to start the 4th quarter. As Hankerson was able to return to the game late in the third quarter, he continued to run strong, as he found a hole up the middle for a touchdown, and gave the Raiders a 31-21 lead (PAT good).

Tommi Hill returned the kickoff the way the Eagles needed him to in order to stay in the game, as the Eagles started from their own 42-yard line. But Edgewater was brought to 4th and 10, and they decided to go for it. Mobley found Kye Rivers for a deep pass at the St. Thomas Aquinas 12-yard line. Edgewater was brought to 4th down again, and decided to go for it again. Christian Leary took the wildcat snap on 4th and 1, and Derrieon Craig forced the ball out of his hands to give the ball back to St. Thomas Aquinas. The Raiders couldn’t take advantage, as a 3 and out forced a punt. After the Eagles marched down the field to the St. Thomas Aquinas 6-yard line, Leary mishandled the snap in wildcat formation, and Tyreak Sapp recovered the football for St. Thomas Aquinas to take over at the Edgewater 10-yard line. After Zion Turner completed three straight first down passes, the Raiders secured the win, and their 12th straight state championship.

St. Thomas Aquinas ends their season at 8-1, and makes a strong case to make themselves the best high school football program in the state of Florida. Edgewater ends their season at 8-3.

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