There was a moment in this game when it appeared the nation’s No. 2 team might go down in flames. It didn’t last for long.
Instead, St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) scored 28 straight points to knock off Florida contender Deerfield Beach, 28-7. The Raiders used a well-rounded and opportunistic attack that featured scores in all three phases of the game to rack up another key win.
Here’s what we learned from Friday’s Florida festivities.
1) Where there’s a will, there’s a way
Deerfield Beach found a way to limit St. Thomas Aquinas’ explosive offense, but that couldn’t hold back the Raiders. First it was a blocked punt returned for a touchdown by Colin Dempsey for a 40-yard touchdown that tied the game at the half. Then, with STA holding a narrow 14-7 lead in the closing seconds of the third, defensive back Philjae Bien-Aime intercepted a Deerfield Beach pass and returned it for a touchdown. The scores on defense and special teams weren’t the game-winning moments per say, but they did play a critical role in making sure that the Raiders would wind up on top.
2) Derek Wingo is a game-changer on defense
A four-star outside linebacker and Florida commit, Derek Wingo is the straw that stirs STA’s defensive drink. A constant instigator of chaos, Wingo finished the game with three sacks — of seven total notched by the Raiders in the game — and heavy pressure on a blitz that forced Deerfield Beach quarterback Michael Pratt into the Bien-Aime interception that was returned for a touchdown. The truth is that his influence was even greater than that, with Wingo constantly getting into the Deerfield Beach backfield and proving a physical presence throughout. Suffice to say, Florida is getting a special defensive talent.
3) Even in loss, Xavier Restrepo got his revenge
There was a time when Xavier Restrepo envisioned this as the kind of game where he would etch his name in STA lore. Instead, he scored the lone touchdown of the night for Deerfield Beach. A former Raider and University of Miami commit, Restrepo pulled in a 54-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the second quarter to break a 0-0 deadlock and give Deerfield Beach the lead. The touchdown showcased the speed and athleticism that initially drew STA to Restrepo, and vice versa.