The 2019 high school football season wrapped up with South Florida teams sending a strong message as they achieved an unprecedented clean sweep of the class 2A to 8A Florida High School Athletic Association state football championships.
The championship games featured 7 teams from South Florida’s Miami-Dade and Broward counties, 3 teams from the Orange county area, two teams from the Panhandle and a team each from Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Lakeland, and Madison county.
All seven South Florida teams were victorious. The previous record for most wins by South Florida teams was five.
2A The Hialeah Champagnat Catholic Lions beat Lakeland’s Victory Christian Academy Storm 35-14 to earn their third state 2A title.
3A The Hollywood’s Chaminade-Madonna Lions beat the Florida High Seminoles 35-20, earning their fifth state title and their first three-peat.
4A The Booker T. Washington Tornadoes beat the Jacksonville Bolles Bulldogs 25-21 for their sixth 4A title.
5A Back- to-back 6A champs Northwestern Bulls achieved their first three-peat as they beat the Orlando Jones Fightin’ Tigers 34-17 after off-season reclassification to 5A.
6A The Central Rockets beat the Pensacola Escambia Gators 62-27 for their sixth title.
7A The undefeated St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders beat the Orlando Edgewater Eagles for the 7A title 28-23 and are now tied with Jacksonville Bolles for the most state titles at 11.
8A The Columbus Explorers beat the Apopka Blue Darters 21-20 for their first state title after failing in their last four trips to the finals.
The finals venue was changed from Orlando’s Camping World Stadium (formerly the Citrus bowl) where the finals were held for the last twelve years, with 1A-3A games at Gene Cox Stadium in Tallahassee on December 5-7, and 4A-8A games at Daytona Stadium the week after.
Classification is based on school enrollment, with all-boys schools like Columbus and Belen having their student count doubled. There are no Broward or Miami teams in the 1A classification and the nearest 1A school is the Pahokee Blue Devils in Palm Beach County who were defeated by eventual 1A Champ Madison Cowboys in the State Semifinals 37-36
This is the first time that both Central and Northwestern went to the state finals in the same year, as up until this year they were in the same 6A “Class of Death” of Carol City, Northwestern and Central, which have combined for the last eight Class 6A state titles, as the 6A
Probably the most compelling story of the playoffs was the Columbus Explorers beating the Apopka Blue Darters for their first state title and avenging last year’s heartbreaking loss to Jacksonville’s Mandarin Mustangs in last year’s championship.
And the Explorers did it “all gas, no brake” style as they came from behind to score twice in the last four minutes and close out the win in thrilling fashion with on a successful two-point conversion.
First year HC Dave Dunn, who returned after coaching the Explorers in the 1999 and 2000 seasons, navigated through a mid-season slump and losses to South Dade, Booker T. Washington, Dillard and University and had his team peaking at just the right time.
Only two Florida teams finished in the USA Today Top 25 Poll as the St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders finished the season as the third ranked team in behind Bellflower California’s St. John Bosco and Dallas’ Duncanville Panthers, and IMG Academy, which does not participate in the FHSAA high school playoffs, finished eighth.
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