TALLAHASSEE, Fla.- On a clear, brisk, 69-degree night at Gene Cox Stadium, Chaminade-Madonna made the case be known: They're coming for a national championship in Las Vegas.
If there was any doubts about the Lions' greatness, they shut those down on Thursday night.
Chaminade-Madonna built a dominant first half lead, maintained it and cruised past Clearwater Central Catholic 48-14 to claim the Class 1M state championship in front of an announced crowd of 1,322. It’s the seventh state title overall for the Lions.
"These guys deserve it," Chaminade-Madonna head coach Dameon Jones said. "My coaches. My kids. They've been working hard since spring ball. This was the goal and we accomplished the goal. I'm blessed to be in this situation."
Now the Lions' eyes are set on playing Bishop Gorman (NV) next week in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series in Sin City. The sin on the field, though, is the embarrassment of riches offensively Chaminade-Madonna brings out to the field every time they hit the turf.
"Looking forward to it," Jones said about facing Bishop Gorman next week. "Our kids are excited about traveling out of state. We went there last year. We're looking forward to the next game and pulling it off."
It was fast. It was furious. There wasn't too much the Marauders could do about stopping the Lions’ transcendent offense.
Only 65 seconds into the game and the Lions were already on the scoreboard in warp speed.
Chaminade-Madonna quarterback Cedrick Bailey (16-of-24, 255 yards) connected on a short four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Joshisa Trader for an early 7-0 lead in the opening quarter.
The next drive for the Lions (13-0) took a mere 1:45 off the clock and ended on a 16-yard scoring run by running back Davion Gause (14 carries, 189 yards). On the very next scoring drive, Bailey finished it with a 17-yard pass to Jeremiah Smith, who made an incredible one-handed grab. Smith finished with six catches for 104 yards and two scores.
“We started off striking right off the bat," Bailey said. "We wanted to set the tone for everybody. Let everyone know we are here. We are the best offense in the nation."
Proving a point to the rest of the country was a point of emphasis for Chaminade-Madonna and they kept the foot on the proverbial gas pedal. Though the Lions went up 28-0 in the first half, Clearwater Central Catholic certainly had their chances throughout the game.
Multiple opportunities inside of the redzone for the Marauders ended empty handed with no points. A couple players that showed out for CCC was quarterback Jershaun Newton (22 carries, 136 yards) and running back Lenwood Sapp, whom combined for 221 yards rushing on the ground.
It was getting anything done through the air just wasn't happening for the Marauders, with Newton completing 5-of-10 for 85 yards. Sapp ended up scoring both of the touchdowns for CCC as the senior finished with 95 yards on 24 attempts.
The night was all about the Lions, however, as the national power flexed their muscle in front of a bevy of college coaches observing the game. Penn State head coach James Franklin was among the contingent on hand to see all the talent on hand.
South Florida dominance was on full display well into the second half and a running clock eventually took into effect in the fourth quarter. Chaminade-Madonna ended up finishing the game with 598 yards and 32 first downs compared to CCC’s 325 and 18 firsts.
The Lions scored one more touchdown in the waning seconds when freshman Bryant Junius punched it in, sending the team running onto the field in jubilation. The road to Tallahassee is over and ends with another championship.
"It all started with the spring and summer workouts," Smith said. "We've been putting in this work all season to get to this moment. We got that one goal and that's to win the state title."
Chaminade-Madonna now sets its sights on chasing a national championship over in Nevada, but the night was about taking in winning their fifth state title under Jones watch. With challenges seemingly becoming more and more rare to face in-state competition, could we see in the future a Chaminade-Central game?
"Hey man, we want to play anybody and everybody," Jones added. "So trust me, it ain't us."
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Andy_Villamarzo.