The Patriots (13-0) defeated the Jesuit Tigers (12-1) by a score of 21-14 to advance to the state championship game for district 5A.
The first quarter was relatively boring because no points were scored, but the Patriots opened the scoring in the second quarter when junior running back Miles Jones caught a short pass from senior quarterback Jason Brown and turned it into a 67-yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked, so the Patriots led 6-0.
Senior wide receiver Laress Nelson increased the lead to 13 with his 23-yard touchdown snag late in the second quarter for Brown’s second touchdown of the night.
On their first drive in the third quarter, Jones scored his second touchdown of the night – this one for 70 yards – when he ran past the Jesuit secondary, leaving the cornerbacks in his dust. At 21-0, the game seemed sealed for the Patriots, but the Tigers did not give up.
Senior running back Malik Davis, Jesuit’s best offensive player, led the offense on a long touchdown drive after senior quarterback Daniel Boon scored a two-yard rushing touchdown. At the end of the third quarter, the Patriots only led by 14.
With nine minutes left in the game, Davis again led the Tigers on a 95-yard drive that culminated with another Boon touchdown. With only 4:03 left in the game, the Patriots led by seven points.
On the ensuing drive, the Patriots moved the ball down into the Tigers’ red zone. Senior kicker Zack Thomson attempted a 28-yard field goal, but it was blocked. The Tigers took over with 22 seconds remaining and 80 yards to go.
Fortunately for the Patriots, the Tigers could not muster anything on offense on their last drive. The game ended at 21-14.
For one of the only times this season, the Patriots’ offense shined rather than the defense. Jones had an especially promising performance, racking up 101 rushing yards and 107 receiving yards. Brown was also very accurate, completing 11 of 14 passes for 158 yards.
The defense did well to keep Davis, who broke the record for most rushing yards during high school in Tampa with his 133 tonight, in check for the majority of the game. The secondary also limited Boon’s effect: He completed only five of 11 passes for 50 yards.
Though the Patriots finished the game strong, there were some issues that must be addressed. The Patriots committed two penalties on two fourth downs attempted by the Tigers to move the chains for them; they were called for five personal fouls; they had two kicks blocked; and they fumbled once.
The Ponte Vedra Sharks (13-0) defeated the Clay Blue Devils (8-5) 52-42 in the other semifinal game for 5A, so the Patriots will face the Sharks at Camping World Stadium Dec. 9 in Orlando, Fla. at 3 p.m. This will be the Patriots’ third state championship game in the last four years.