Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Lynn Ramsey - Florida Catholic
Photography: LYNN RAMSEY | FC
ORLANDO | Chaminade-Madonna’s coaches carried a title belt into Camping World Stadium, but thanks to Daniel Longman, the Lions left with the real crown.
Longman kicked a 19-yard field goal with 4 seconds left in the game to give the Lions a 31-28 victory Dec. 9 over West Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy in the Class 3A FHSAA Football final.
After falling in last year’s final, the Lions added the 3A state championship to their 2003 and 2005 Class 2A crowns. Running back Shaun Shivers ran for 216 yards and two first-half touchdowns. That gave the Auburn commitment 2,023 yards and 25 touchdowns on the season.
“We’re always hungry, and we were motivated,” Shivers said. “To come back here and win it was big for us.”
The game resembled a heavyweight fight, and Chaminade-Madonna had to withstand several Oxbridge punches. The Lions outpunched the ThunderWolves in the first half but struggled in the second half.
At the end, Daelen Menard and Shaun Shivers drove the Lions to the winning score. Menard’s 13-yard completion to Akeem Hayes and Menard’s 21-yard run put the Lions into Oxbridge territory on the last drive. Chaminade-Madonna then turned to Shivers to set up the winning score. He ran for 7 yards to the Oxbridge 8, then nearly scored a touchdown. But his 6-yard run to the Oxbridge 2-yard line was all the Lions needed to set up Longman’s winning kick.
“I knew it was just like practice; I knew the pressure was all on me,” Longman said. “My snapper, my holder, my guards: They knew their jobs. I knew mine. To put it through the uprights made me so happy.”
Menard completed 5 of 9 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns and one interception. “That last drive was nothing special. They were the same plays we’d run all year,” Menard said. “We just made it happen.”
Longman’s field goal helped the Lions withstand Oxbridge quarterback Gio Richardson, who completed 16 of 33 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 53 yards and another touchdown.
“They were running some things we’d seen, but they only ran those a couple times,” said Chaminade-Madonna cornerback James Williams. “We made adjustments through timeouts and water breaks, and we pulled through for the win.”
Shivers ran for touchdowns of 7 and 2 yards in the first half, and Akeem Hayes caught a 44-yard touchdown pass from Menard to put the Lions up 21-14 at halftime. Menard hit Xavier Williams on a sideline route for a 55-yard touchdown with 3:49 left in the third quarter to put the Lions up 28-14.
“They were trying to contain (Shivers) a lot,” said Xavier Williams, an Alabama commitment. “We figured that we’d take a shot early (in the second half). We were up, so why not take a shot?”
Oxbridge won’t go away quietly
That score turned out to be huge, as Oxbridge started shredding the Lions on screens and passes into the flat. Richardson drove Oxbridge to Chaminade-Madonna’s 28 before James Williams outdueled two Oxbridge receivers for an interception at the Lions 5 with 11:39 left in the game.
“I saw my team in need of a stop,” James Williams said. “My coach always tells me to play big-time ball and go for the pick.”
Oxbridge then tightened up on Chaminade-Madonna’s offense. The ThunderWolves held Shivers to 71 yards in the second half and kept pressure on Menard. McCray had 10 tackles for Oxbridge.
“They were blitzing more than they were in the first half,” Shivers said. “They were containing outside, and their ends were doing a pretty good job stepping down (into the play).”
Oxbridge held Chaminade-Madonna after Williams’ interception, then a short punt set up the ThunderWolves with a short field. Richardson’s 17-yard touchdown to Herman McCray brought Oxbridge within 28-21 with 7:53 left. Chaminade-Madonna went three-and-out on the next drive, then the Thunderwolves tied it 28-28 on a Richardson-to-De’John King 16-yard touchdown in the flat with 3:27 left.
With all the momentum on the ThunderWolves’ side, Chaminade-Madonna rediscovered its offense and kept Oxbridge’s offense on the bench the final 3:27 of the game.
Chaminade-Madonna recalled lessons they learned while facing five playoff teams to rally for the win.
“We played some of the best teams in the state, which helped us to get where we are today,” Menard said. “The adversity, playing the hard teams, even taking the losses helped us.”
Keontra Smith had 13 tackles and Ahmaud Jordan had nine tackles for the Lions. Zachary Dixon had two sacks as well for the Lions.
2016 State final not enough
Chaminade Madonna last year left Camping World Stadium with a 24-13 loss to three-time state champ Jacksonville Trinity Christian. The Lions made a promise to finish the job this year.
“We had to learn how to win and go against quality opponents,” said Chaminade-Madonna coach Dameon Jones. “This is a great team, but we were battle-tested.”
Determined not to repeat that finish, the Lions beefed up their regular-season schedule. After facing three playoff teams last year, they battled five playoff teams going 3-2 against them. The Lions opened with a loss to perennial 6A power Miami Central, beat Miramar, then lost to Class 5A champ Plantation American Heritage. But the loss to the team that has won four of the last five Class 5A titles was the Lions’ last.
Chaminade-Madonna won six in a row to complete the regular season, posting three shutouts along the way. With the FHSAA moving away from districts in favor of an at-large point system, the Lions needed to make a case to even get in.
They did so convincingly with a No. 1 seed in Region 4. With 2016 3A champ Jacksonville Trinity Christian leaping up to Class 5A, the 3A crown was open.
The tough regular-season schedule paid dividends in the playoffs. They ran roughshod over their playoff opponents, routing Delray Beach American Heritage 38-0, Palm Beach Gardens Benjamin 56-0 and Clearwater Central Catholic 49-3.
Every Lion asked said they knew as soon as last year’s game ended that they would return to Orlando.
“Since we lost last year, we knew that we were getting back the next year,” Menard said. “We weren’t going home with a loss this year.”