After jumping out to a great start with a big kick return to open the ball game, the Lincoln Trojans could not over come second half woes and fell to St. Thomas Aquinas 41-25 in the Class 7A state final. For many Lincoln fans the memories of a dramatic win to claim the 2010 state title are still fresh. Just two seasons ago the Trojans were hoisting their 3rd state title trophy and this years trip to the championship game seemed to hold the same promise. No stranger to St. Thomas Aquinas, Lincoln won its second state championship over the Raiders in 2001.
The Trojans (12-2) were expected to challenge the upstart Raiders (13-2), even after Aquinas beat top ranked Manatee in the semifinals a week earlier. All season the Trojans have been dominant on special teams and Lincoln issued a huge challenge as John Burt returned the opening kickoff 95 yards to give Lincoln a 6-0 lead just a few seconds into the ballgame. Lincoln then came up with a huge stop on Aquinas’ first drive as defender Jamerson Blount made an impressive interception deep in the red-zone.
Shortly after the Trojans great start the momentum shifted significantly in the Raiders favor as Aquinas quarterback John O’Korn got to work throwing 3 consecutive touchdowns for 51, 80, 71 yards respectively. Lincoln struggled to keep the Raiders air attack under control for the remainder of the game. The Trojan offense showed some signs of life and begin to move the ball, scoring in the last 6 minutes of the half when quarterback Cameron Joseph found wide-out Taj Williams for a 50 yard score with 1:16 left before halftime, making the score 24-19.
“I knew that if we could get another score we could flip the scoreboard and we would have a shot.” Said Lincoln head coach Yusuf Shakir. “But we had to put pressure on them… As long as they had the lead they didn’t have much pressure on them.”
The third quarter was a defensive battle as Lincoln running back Ben Robinson was stifled and the Trojans heralded group of wide receivers were kept under wraps for nearly the entire second half. Things broke open for St. Thomas Aquinas in the final quarter, as the Raiders pulled away with 17 unanswered points. Leading rusher Fred Coppet capped off St. Thomas Aquinas’ scoring with a 40-yard touchdown run.
The Trojan defense simply could not contain Raider quarterback John O’Korn, who managed to do it all, passing for 339 yards and rushing for nearly 100 more. The Raider offense was responsible for a massive 604 yards of offense compared to Lincoln’s 225. “It shouldn’t have been much of an issue for us.”, Said Shakir. “We should’ve stayed at home on some things and we had some busts. That’s the game. The team that wins it all has the least mistakes.”