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Five-peat! St. Thomas Aquinas makes history by edging Homestead for fifth straight state football title | Photos

St. Thomas Aquinas became the first team in Florida history to win a fifth consecutive football championship as the Raiders hung on for a 31-28 victory in the Class 3M title game over Homestead at Ken Riley Field at Bragg Memorial Stadium in Tallahassee on Saturday evening.

Andrew Indorf threw for three scores, and the Raiders, who had led 17-0 late in the third quarter, showed their mettle as Homestead (12-2) piled up three touchdowns in a 4:30 span that carried into the fourth quarter.

With the victory in the rematch of the 2022 state championship game (won by the Raiders 38-21), St. Thomas Aquinas pulled ahead of five schools who had a combined six four-peats: Miami Central, who won four straight titles in 2019-22 and 2012-2015; North Florida Christian 1998-2001; Trinity Christian 2013-16; Booker T. Washington 2012-15, and Suwannee 1987-1990.

During that five-year winning streak, the Raiders have outscored their playoff opponents 1051-225, including 211-48 this year. St. Thomas (14-1), ranked No. 10 in the nation by MaxPreps, had allowed only 20 points in the 2023 postseason going into the game.

It also was Aquinas’ 15th overall football state championship in school history. Jacksonville Bolles has the second most with 11.

Broncos’ senior quarterback Joshua Townsend led a valiant comeback after St. Thomas led 17-0 lead as late as with 4:12 left in the third quarter. The Raiders had gotten two first-half touchdowns from Ohio State commit Jordan Lyle, but then Townsend threw for three scores and ran for another as Homestead, ranked No. 44 in the nation, kept chipping away at the St. Thomas Aquinas lead.

Homestead eschewed a tying field goal attempt in the fourth quarter with St. Thomas Aquinas ahead 24-21, and the Broncos never were able to knot the score.

“It’s incredible, that’s what this game is all about,” said Raiders coach Roger Harriott during a TV interview with Bally Sports after the game. “You put your faith in God, and have a ton of trust and things will come out as planned.

“Homestead played a great second half and we consider ourselves a second-half team. We showed that second-half resilience that was needed and this is what state championships are really all about.”

St. Thomas took the opening kickoff and moved from their own 34 to the Homestead 5-yard line, where the drive stalled and Francesco Pileggi connected on a 27-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

After the Raiders’ defense held on the next series, Indorf guided St. Thomas to a 10-0 lead on a 22-yard TD on screen pass to Lyle. He went 3 for 4 on the drive for 50 yards and added a 15-yard run to set up the TD pass with 2:42 remaining in the first quarter.

The Broncos took the ensuing kickoff and marched from their 31 to the St. Thomas Aquinas 2 where the Raiders had a goal-line stand and stopped Homestead on a 4th-and-goal on the 1, led by Kedrick Burley and Brandon Joseph Jr.

The Raiders extended the lead to 17-0 with just 32 seconds remaining in the first half as they drove 72 yards in 10 plays, capped by a 3-yard run by Lyle on a Wildcat play.

Homestead came out on fire in the third quarter as they scored twice within a 1-minute, 39-second span to pull within 17-14 with 2:32 remaining in the third quarter as Townsend had scoring throws of 12 to Kevin Cascuda and 3 yards to Isaac Brown. The second score was set up by a fumble on a kickoff return that gave the Broncos the ball on the Raiders’ 33.

St. Thomas Aquinas caught a break on the next series when Lyle fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Homestead’s Semaj Smith. He was ruled to be out of bounds on the play so the Raiders kept possession and Indorf hit Julius Jones on a 48-yard slant for a TD to go up 24-14.

Homestead came right back and pulled within 24-21 on a bomb from Townsend to Brown. After holding the Raiders on their next series, the Broncos went from their own 42 to the St. Thomas Aquinas 10, mostly on a 27-yard pass from Townsend to Mills.

Instead of going for a potential game-tying field goal, Homestead gambled on 4th-and-7 from the 10 and came up empty as Townsend was sacked by Trevor Sommers for a 22-yard loss.

St. Thomas responded on a 69-yard pass-and-run from Indorf to Andreus Madison to up the lead to 31-21 with 5:26 left in the game.

Townsend cut the lead to 31-28 on an 18-yard run by Townsend with a little over two minutes remaining, however the Raiders were able to run out the clock for the win.

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