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2006 Game of the Year

Lakeland-St. Thomas Aquinas was one for the ages

Posted: Friday December 22, 2006 11:29AM; Updated: Friday December 22, 2006 12:59PM
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Ahmad Black and Lakeland appeared to be in control against St. Thomas Aquinas in the Florida Class 5A state title game. But Aquinas scored 35 points in the final six minutes to tie it, before losing in double overtime.
Ahmad Black and Lakeland appeared to be in control against St. Thomas Aquinas in the Florida Class 5A state title game. But Aquinas scored 35 points in the final six minutes to tie it, before losing in double overtime.
Preston Mack/SI
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By Jon Mahoney, Special to SI.com, RISE

Lakeland (Fla.) appreared to be in complete control against St. Thomas Aquinas in the Florida Class 5A football state championship on Dec. 8 at Dolphin Stadium. The Dreadnaughts led 21-0 entering the fourth quarter and were well on their way to winning their third consecutive state crown.

But amazingly, Aquinas scored a ridiculous 35 points in the final six minutes (a combined 49 points were scored between the teams in that span) and recovered two onside kicks en route to an improbable comeback. The Raiders forced overtime on a 14-yard touchdown reception by senior wide receiver Leonard Hankerson with 44 seconds remaining.

After both teams traded scores in the first overtime, Lakeland senior kicker Matt Roddenbery gave Lakeland a 45-42 lead in the second overtime on a 20-yard field goal.

Then came more dramatics. Facing a fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line, Aquinas decided to go for the win rather than kick the game-tying field goal. Lakeland stuffed Aquinas junior running back Jeremiah Harden on the play to clinch their third consecutive state crown and 45th consecutive win overall.

Lakeland senior running back Chris Rainey ran for 276 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries and was named game MVP. Lakeland finished the year ranked No. 1 in the nation.

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