Larry Blustein

FRIDAY FOCUS: Is St. Thomas On A Mission?

Larry Blustein
November 30, 2018 - 10:51 am

Exactly one year ago this week (Dec. 1), St. Thomas Aquinas had its run of state titles and invincibility in Class 7A stopped.

The 27-20 loss to eventual state champion Venice on the road brought to an end a crazy streak that this program had put together – while churning out top-flight athletes who are now getting it done in college.

Under head coaches Roger Harriott and Rocco Casullo, the Raiders had once again put this program back in control – and even though they lost to Venice last season, it was a given that what happened was not something that figured to be a yearly thing.

Remember, two years ago – when Venice came into Fort Lauderdale, the Indians had been the highest scoring team in the state with an offense that had some impressive prospects. The Raiders had not only ran the clock on them, but they shut them completely down, 46-8.

The following week they beat Tampa Plant with ease, 45-6, in the state title game – and even beat Bingham of Utah in a post season matchup.

What Harriott and his program have done is attract the top players who are coached by elite coaches. Having Hall of Famer Jason Taylor along with former Dolphins Sam Madison and Twan Russell aboard with the other coaches, has kept this team in the spotlight.

On Friday night at 7:30, Venice once again comes into Brian Piccolo Stadium to play a team that has been so convincing the past two plus months that this could be a lot like two years ago.

Unlike last year – when Venice had a group of athletes who were talented and played together for years, this season – even though they are 12-1 and are on a 12 game winning streak, the matchups are definitely NOT in the Indians favor. Not this time around.

They let up 76 points just in the playoffs. The offense has scored 144. 

Coming into tonight’s game, the Raiders are on an eight game winning streak, have mauled the three playoff opponents, 163-20 and have dominated all year – outscoring the opposition 624-87 with six shutouts.

The winner tonight will play against either Orlando Edgewater (12-1) or Lakeland (13-0) next week in Orlando.

TREMENDOUS GAMES TONIGHT

While St. Thomas and Venice will be one of the game to keep an eye – it is not the only one.

It will be Dade vs. Broward when Christopher Columbus (13-0) visits Deerfield Beach (12-1) at 7:30. The winner will take on either Sarasota Riverview (11-3) or Jacksonville Mandarin (9-4) at Camping World Stadium for the 8A title.

Defending 6A state champion Miami Northwestern will hit the road for the fourth straight game when the 8-5 Bulls travel to play 12-1 Naples.

The winner of that game will play either Crestview (10-2) or Seffner Armwood (12-1) in Orlando.

Yet another huge game will see Cardinal Gibbons (11-2) looking to get back to state for the first time since 1990 when the Chiefs host Tampa Jesuit (12-1).

The winner of the game will face either Citra North Marion (11-2) or Jacksonville Trinity Christian (13-0) in Orlando.

The 4A state semifinal will also capture the attention of many – when head coach Daniel Luque’s University School Sharks (11-1) visit head coach Ryan Schneider and the defending state runner-up Cocoa Tigers (9-3). 

The Sharks lost last year in this game. The winner of this impressive clash will play either Dunnellon (8-5) or defending state champion Jacksonville Raines (11-1).

Tonight a pair of defending state champions will take that step back. For head coach Dameon Jones and his 10-2 Chaminade-Madonna Lions it’s the return trip to play unbeaten Clearwater Central Catholic, which has won 12 straight.

The winner of the game will head to Orlando to face off in the 3A title game against either West Palm Beach King’s Academy (12-1) or Tallahassee Florida High (8-3).

The defending 2A state champion Champagnat Catholic Lions (7-5) have a new coach, plenty of new players, but the same objective when they travel to St. Petersburg to take on unbeaten Admiral Farragut (10-1). This is the third straight state semifinals for Champagnat Catholic.

The winner will get either Lakeland Victory Christian (11-1) or Tallahassee North Florida Christian (7-4).

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