Aquinas off to states
December 12, 2012St. Thomas Aquinas High School
It wasn't supposed to end this way, for Bradenton Manatee.
Rarely the underdog, the St. Thomas Aquinas football team pulled off one of its biggest victories in school history on Friday, shocking the countries No.1 ranked Hurricanes 35-18 in a Class 7A state semifinal at Brian Piccolo Stadium.
The Raiders (12-2) advance to the 7A state title game against Tallahassee Lincoln at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando next Friday. St. Thomas Aquinas will be bidding to win its seventh state title and fourth overall since 2007.
The victory extended the Raiders winning streak to nine games, while Manatee's winning streak was halted at 25 games.
Some redemption for the Aquinas, maybe.
In 2009 St. Thomas was the defending 5A state champs and Manatee ended their season with a 28-20 victory.
"The effort was unbelievable," St. Thomas coach Rocco Casullo said. "Our kids were so sick hearing about Manatee. They said we're good and they did what the coaches told them in all three phases of the game."
Manatee (13-1) had been dominant in each of it previous 13 games prior to Aquinas. They averaged 50.4 points per game, while winning by a margin of 39.5 points. That's just the half of it as 11 of the 13 wins came via the running clock
The defining drive for the Raiders came on the opening possession of the second half when St. Thomas drove 80 yards on eight plays for a 21-3 lead. Dion Collier hauled in a 38-yard pass from quarterback John O'Korn for the touchdown
After forcing Manatee to punt, the Raider did what needed to do and that was run the ball. And the they did it with success against the Hurricanes vaunted defensive line. Though they turned the ball over downs at the Manatee 35, they took valuable time off the clock.
The Raiders offensive line opened big running lanes for running backs Fred Coppet and Madre London all night. Coppet finished with 131 yards, while London had 123 yards.
""We knew we could run the ball," Coppet said. "This feels great because they doubted us. Don't doubt a team that is really good."
Manatee scored twice in the second half to stay within striking distance, but each time St. Thomas had an answer the Manatee defense. London scored on a 22 yard run and followed that with another score from 21 yards with 1:18 left.
"We saw on game film we could take advantage of their defense," O'Korn said. "We knew if out defense could play well, and they did, we could win. It was a great group effort."
O'Korn passed for 184 yards, one touchdowns and no interceptions
The Raiders played a solid first half despite a few miscues. Regardless, the Raiders still led 14-3 after two quarters, quieting the Hurricane faithful. It was the first time Manatee trailed at the half since falling behind 6-0 to Miramar in the seasons first game..
After the Raiders defense held Manatee to a 35-yard field goal, Coppet gave the Raiders a 7-3 lead with 2:51 left in the first quarter on a seven yard run.
After an O'Korn lost fumble was returned to the St. Thomas 21 by Blake Keller, the Raiders defense stiffened holding the Hurricanes to no points following a missed field goal..
St. Thomas capitalized on the missed opportunity, driving 80 yards on 10 plays with O'Korn scoring off right tackle from three-yards for a 14-3 lead. Key play on the drive was Coppet's 41-yard run to the Manatee 22. Manatee's high-powered offense was held to just 109 in the half.