Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Lynn Ramsey - Florida Catholic
ORLANDO | State titles are like children: It’s hard to tell which is your favorite.
Daelen Menard, Te’Cory Couch and the rest of Chaminade-Madonna’s seniors leave their team with two titles in three attempts after beating West Palm Beach King’s Academy 38-10 Dec. 8 in the FHSAA Class 3A state football championship.
Menard threw for 218 yards and two touchdowns for Chaminade-Madonna (12-2, No. 1 in The Associated Press’ Class 3A poll), which finished the season with a six-game winning streak. Couch led the defense with two interceptions, one of which set up a touchdown.
Menard said last year’s championship was better because Chaminade-Madonna had to rally to beat Oxbridge, but “this year’s just as special.”
Couch, however, said this one is sweeter, because it’s the last for the seniors.
“This one’s sweeter, because I’m not coming back,” said Couch, who has committed to the University of Miami.
Chaminade-Madonna coach Dameon Jones said it was a challenge to repeat as state champions, because many of the players hadn’t done it before. He credited the seniors with focusing their teammates.
“It’s really hard to win back-to-back,” Jones said. “I had maybe 10 seniors coming back and a bunch of new guys who don’t know the path and the hard work it takes. To mix that stuff together, my seniors did a wonderful job and my coaches did a wonderful job.”
Couch said the biggest challenge was finding leaders to replace those who graduated from last year’s team. He said Couch, James Williams, John Dunmore and Menard stepped into those roles.
Senior defensive end Andrew Iulianelli, who had two sacks, said the Lions knew they had a good team but started off slowly. “As we hit the end of the season, that’s when we started to peak.”
Chaminade-Madonna also had to replace Thaddius Franklin, who suffered a season-ending broken left collarbone in his team’s 16-0 state-semifinal victory at Clearwater Central Catholic. Replacing Franklin, who had 1,602 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns, fell to Vincent Davis.
Davis ran for 83 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. A transfer from Miami Central, he finished the season with 936 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.
Davis credited Franklin with helping him prepare each week, though he said it was a two-way street.
“It was a tough year for me, but I’ve been patient,” Davis said. “We help each other every day. It’s a brotherhood between me and him. He gave me tips, and I gave him tips.”
King’s Academy knocked the Lions on their heels early in the game as Chaminade-Madonna struggled to contain dual-threat quarterback Justin Wake. He put King’s up 7-0 with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Cory Croteau and led a field-goal drive for a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Couch turned the momentum toward Chaminade-Madonna with an interception. Davis ran for 24 yards, then scored on a 14-yard touchdown run. The Lions then forced a King’s punt. Menard set up Davis’ 13-yard touchdown run with a 36-yard pass to Jordan Cash. Those scores put Chaminade-Madonna up 21-10 at halftime.
“We just stopped trying to do too much,” Menard said. “They were playing off us; they didn’t want to get beat up top. We hit the underneath stuff, made them come up, then we started running the ball and going over the top.”
Jones said the bigger adjustment was to catch the ball and firm up the passing attack.
Chaminade-Madonna’s defense also clamped down on King’s, sacking Wake six times. Iulianelli sacked Wake twice, and Thomas Armstrong had 1.5 sacks among his team-high 12 tackles. Jones said the Lions had to bottle up Wake and prevent him from running.
Iulianelli said the defense is Chaminade-Madonna’s strength. The Lions allowed 9 points per game. They ended up holding Wake to 14-of-30 passing for 115 yards. He also was held to minus-28 rushing yards on 10 carries, though the six sacks played into that total.
“Our goal was to stop the run,” Iulianelli said. “If we stopped the pass, our offense would do their thing. Going against every team is a challenge. You can’t take any team lightly. We didn’t take this team lightly.
“We have the top defensive backs in the nation. We have them in the backfield. The guys up front will do their thing.”
Strength in Chaminade-Madonna’s front seven enabled their defensive backs to handle King’s Academy’s quick out-passes. Couch, a University of Miami commitment, had two interceptions, finishing with seven this season. Five different defensive backs broke up passes.
They also kept King’s receiver Drew Luchey from doing much damage. Chaminade-Madonna held him to six catches for 30 yards.
“When they game-planned for us, we were running a lot of man-to-man (defense),” Couch said. “They were running a lot of pick routes, which is how they scored. We just switched it up and ran a lot of zone.”
While Couch, Menard and Davis were divided as to which state championship was their favorite, they were united in their hopes for their alma mater next year: “Win another one.”