HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Trenton returns to state finals
Published: Friday, November 29, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 29, 2013 at 11:55 p.m.
TRENTON — Riding a 20-game home winning streak, the Trenton Tigers, state finalists a year ago, added another victory inside The Jungle on Friday night and with it a return trip to Orlando for the Class 1A final.
CLASS 1A STATE FINAL
Who: No. 4 Trenton (11-1) vs. No. 1 Blountstown (13-0)
When: Friday, 7:07 p.m.
Where: Citrus Bowl, Orlando
Senior Jacquez Powell scored two touchdowns and sophomore Trevante McCleese intercepted a Shaquille Mitchem pass at the Tiger 4-yard line in the final seconds as No. 4 Trenton held on for a dramatic 17-14 win over No. 2 Dixie County in the Class 1A state semifinals before a school-record crowd of 3,500.
With the victory, the Tigers (11-1) advance to Friday's state championship at the Citrus Bowl against No. 1 Blountstown (13-0), which posted its eighth shutout of the season and fourth in last five games with a 42-0 win at Cottondale. It will be these Tigers' first state final since 2004. The state final officially will be at 7:07 p.m.
“There was a lot of emotion going into this game,” said Trenton coach Andrew Thomas, who is 35-3 in three years. “It really wasn't that we had revenge on our mind, it was playing in the third round in the state semifinals trying to play for a state championship. We were trying to stay focused on what we need to do to win the game. Our kids play well at home.”
Dixie County (10-1) had beaten Trenton in Cross City in September, 18-7. But the Tigers have proven to be unbeatable at home.
Ahead 14-7 at the half, Trenton had only 43 yards of offense in the second half, but took advantage of two interceptions. The first, by Michael Smith, led to a 35-yard field goal by Marcus Mannerstedt, for a 10-point cushion at 17-7 midway in the third quarter. The second, sealed the deal as Bears' players collapsed on the turf while the Tigers celebrated.
Dixie County had 315 yards of total offense, 248 of that on ground on 52 carries. Trenton, in comparison, had 184 total yards, 158 of that on the ground, and only two first downs in the second half.
Of the Bears' nine drives, six times they were in Tiger territory, three times inside the 30 and came away with zero points. A 23-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth that would have tied the game at 17 went wide.
“We just couldn't sustain some drives,” said Brent Wilkerson, who reached his first state semifinal in 15 years as Dixie County coach. “We got down there and missed a field goal, and that hurt us a little bit. Then we got down there again and threw the interception. That happens sometimes.
“If we haven't had so many missed tackles early on we wouldn't have been in this position. Shaquille played great, even with that interception. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have even been in that position.”
Mitchem, a FAMU commit, nearly brought the Bears to victory with his scrambling ability and his pass completions down the stretch. He had two completions to James Horsely, had a 15-yard run, then hit Kendall Copeland for nine yards. After another scramble for seven yards and a first down, the Tigers were flagged for a personal foul with a tackle on the sidelines, putting the Bears at the Trenton 8 with 20 seconds to play.
But on the next play, Mitchem's intended pass to Copeland along the right sideline was picked off by McCleese, his first interception in his first season at varsity.
“Coach told us on the last drive, playmakers make plays,” McCleese said. “I had to go out there and make a play. I saw him (Mitchem) back out, and he had been doing that, and instead of going toward him, I backed up and he threw it right to me.”
Powell put Trenton ahead, 7-0, with his 46-yard touchdown late in the first quarter. On the play, he appeared stopped several times but never stopped pushing forward and broke free and ran toward the end zone.
“Coach said to go at it 100 percent every snap,” Powell said. “I had to contribute to my team tonight and that is what I did.”
After Julian Robinson's 1-yard TD run tied it early in the second, the Tigers responded on their next offensive possession, going 68 yards on 10 plays and capping it with Powell's second TD run, from three yards, and a 14-7 lead. Quarterback Stephen Smith completed his only pass on that drive, a 26-yarder to Brooks Martin, on a third-and-8 situation.
UF commit Duke Dawson of Dixie County was taken out on a stretcher toward the end of the game after sustaining a concussion. Prior to that, he had three carries for 27 yards in the second half.
“This game came down to guts and someone making a play,” said Thomas, whose Tigers lost to Bratt Northview, 42-21 in last year's 1A final. “Trevante, that is his first interception ever. And it couldn't come at a better time.
“We have a motto this season of unfinished business. This wasn't our ultimate goal. It's a big win, biggest crowd ever at Trenton High School. But this wasn't what we did all that summer work for. To get back there, I think we learned from the experience we had from last year.”