Football

Unbeaten Plant stands in No. 6 St. Thomas Aquinas' way of Fla. state championship

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Kickoff: Friday, 8 p.m. ET

No. 6 St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) comes into the Class 7A Florida state title game on an eight-game winning streak. Aquinas lost their opening game 27-23 at then four-time defending 4A state champion Booker T. Washington and then dropped a three-overtime heartbreaker in a nationally televised game at No. 1 Bishop Gorman in week five.

But the Raiders have outscored their four playoff opponents by a combined 168-18 with two shutouts. Aquinas blasted the third-ranked team in 7A, Venice, 46-8 last week in the state semifinals. QB Jake Allen and RB Michael Epstein lead a balanced offensive attack, and Andrew White leads the defense along with Lashawn Paulin, who has 12.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. This team has D-1 talent all over the field.

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Plant (Tampa), though, has been one of the most successful programs in the state of Florida since Robert Weiner became head coach 13 years ago. The Panthers have won four state titles in six years between 2006-11, but this is the first trip back to Orlando for them since the 2011 state championship.

Plant allowed only 145 points in 13 games this season, but it has had some close calls in the playoffs against Lakeland (25-21) and Lee (27-19). Dante Frantzen has been great all year, and running back Whop Philyor also helps lead the Plant offense.  This game will be a major step up in competition for the undefeated Panthers, however.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB Jake Allen, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr. – The Florida commit led Aquinas back to the state championship game after throwing for nearly 2,000 yards with 25 touchdowns against only six interceptions. Allen will try to end his high school career with three consecutive state titles.

RB Michael Epstein, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr. – Epstein leads the Raiders balanced offensive attack in rushing with 1,037 yards and 16 TDs on the ground.

LB Andrew White, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr. – White led Aquinas with 61 tackles, including 9.5 for loss. The Aquinas defense has allowed only 18 points in four playoff games.

QB Dante Frantzen, Plant, Sr. – Dual-threat QB for Panthers gained over 3,700 total yards and 49 total TDs, with 30 scores and only five interceptions through the air.

LB Thomas Allen, Plant, Sr. – The Indiana commit leads the Plant defense with 137 total tackles and a whopping 52 tackles for loss, including six sacks.

For more on this game, visit FloridaHSFootball.com

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