After a 44-15 victory over the Bakers County Wildcats in the FHSAA Class 5A State Title game, the Patriots are back-to-back state champions. The team adds one more ring their collection, making it four in five years and cementing the team’s dynasty in Florida football.
Before the game started, senior kicker Jared Elstein was awarded with the Jr. Orange Scholar Athlete Award for his having the highest grade point average on the team with a 5.39.
On the opening drive of the game, senior quarterback Cameron Smith led the Patriots 77 yards down the field to capitalize on a one-yard sneak on 4th and goal, to put the team up 7-0 early on.
After holding the Wildcats to two first downs and forcing a punt, the Patriots started way back at the fifteen. However, two quarterback designed runs by Smith brought the offense to the Wildcat 30-yard line. A fumble in the red zone by Smith, which was thankfully recovered by senior running back Miles Jones, set the team back eight yards. The Patriots settled for a 33-yard field goal by Elstein to increase the lead to 10.
The Patriots stellar defense forced a three-and-out and punt. After a short punt combines with a low-block penalty on Baker, Smith and the offense took over at the Wildcat 39-yard line. Two plays later, Smith found senior wide receiver Joshua Alexander deep in the end zone for a 39-yard touchdown, expanding the lead to 17-0.
The following Baker County drive landed itself in Patriot territory, but a high snap led to a fumble recovery by senior defensive tackle Nesta Jade Silvera, who took it back to the house for a 57-yard touchdown, pushing the lead to 24-0.
A three-and-out and a short 23-yard punt by the Wildcats gave the Patriots great field position on the Baker County 43-yard line. One play later, Smith found senior wide receiver Anthony Schwartz underneath for a 43-yard catch and run touchdown. However, a missed extra point kept the score at 30-0.
The stingy Patriot defense forced yet another three and out, giving the offense fantastic field positioning again on the 37-yard line. The ball went back to the national 100-meter dash champion Schwartz on the end-around which he took to the promised land to make the lead 37-0.
Halftime was filled with performances by the Patriot band and cheer squad, but everyone was talking about the blowout on hand. The second half would have a running clock because of the Patriots’ huge lead over Baker County, as sort of a FHSAA “mercy rule”.
Amidst whispers of the game being over, the Wildcats came out in the second half seeking an extraordinary comeback. The opening second half kick was returned 47 yards to give Baker good starting field position. Senior slot receiver and running back Nick Lee bust through the Patriot secondary and brought the ball into the red zone before being pushed out of bounds at the four-yard line. The next play, Lee’s running back counterpart senior Seth Paige got the Wildcats on the board with a four yard rushing touchdown to make the score 37-7.
The Wildcats caught the Patriots off-guard with an onside kick and retained possession. The very next play, Paige carried the ball 52 yards to the end zone, putting life and hope into Baker County fans. Paige was able to punch in the following two-point conversion out of the wildcat formation and cut the Patriot lead to 22.
After a failed onside try from Baker, the Patriots ran the ball down the field to chew some time off the clock. With just over six minutes to play in the game, Smith sealed the victory and title for the Patriots with another quarterback keeper from inside the one-yard line to push the game out reach and lead to 29.
The clock hit triple zero and the Patriots rushed the field with medals and collected their state title trophy. The scene was filled with bittersweetness from Patriot seniors who will not play another FHSAA football game. With cheers, smiles and tears the Patriots took pictures with the medals and trophies, before exiting the field champions for the second year in a row.