84.6 F

Victory Christian vs. Indian Rocks Christian – 2A State Championship preview


football_orlando finalsBy Marty Pallman

The FHSAA championship game for 2A is a showdown of two teams looking for their first football state title.  Top-ranked Indian Rocks Christian (Largo) and No. 2 Victory Christian (Lakeland) will meet Friday afternoon in a 1-2 showdown at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

For Victory Christian, they came up just a bit short in last year’s 2A state title game, losing 14-7 to Champagnat Catholic (Hialeah). The Storm have been #2 in the state AP poll most of the season, trailing only Indian Rocks Christian.

Victory Christian coach Tommy Lewis, who is in his 12th season at the school, knows last year’s experience of making it to a state title game can only help this year.

“It has to be important, already making it to this point last year,” Lewis said. “The biggest thing is the experience, and having kids who have been through it and know what’s at stake and also what to expect.”

Victory Christian (11-1)advanced to Orlando with three home wins, hanging on to beat South Daytona Warner Christian, 41-34, in the regional final before rolling past Tallahassee North Florida Christian, 44-27, in last week’s state semifinal. Lewis says the Storm are coming in the state championship game healthy at all of the key positions.victory_christian_academy_storm

“Like every team in the country, we have had to deal with injuries,” Lewis added. “But coming into this state title game we are about as healthy as we can be.”

Victory Christian features an extremely balanced offense.

Senior quarterback Caleb Lewis has completed 136 of 248 passes for 2,229 yards and 26 TD’s with only 7 INT’s. The ground game is led by three senior running backs, E’Andre Smith, Cecil Cherry, and Jaylyn McKinney, who all have over 545 yards rushing and have combined for 22 touchdowns.

Caleb Lewis is the son of coach Tommy Lewis. Coach Lewis knows it’s going to be tough coaching his son for the final time.

“I know, as my son, he doesn’t always get the credit he probably deserves,” Lewis says. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do next year when he (Caleb) isn’t here anymore. I’m really going to have to coach hard then.”

The Storm’s defense is led by Cherry with 150 total tackles and McKinney with 15 tackles for a loss and seven sacks.

This is the first state championship game appearance for Indian Rocks Christian (12-0). Mark Buchanan has been the Golden Eagles coach since 2005. He led Indian Rocks to the state semifinal last year, losing to eventual state champion Champagnat, 28-14.

Buchanan thinks last year’s playoff run led to even more success in 2014.

“We (Indian Rocks) really started to bring things together last year, when we won two playoff games,” Buchanan said. “We were very close to winning that Champagnat game as well. I think this year’s team took confidence from winning those playoff games in 2013.”

Indian Rocks ChristianIndian Rocks Christian definitely prefers to run the ball on offense.

Senior running back Jacquan Fuller has rushed for 1,148 yards rushing, a 14 yards per carry offense and 18 touchdowns, while senior Zeke McGaughy has added 1,084 yards on the ground and another 18 TD’s.

Junior quarterback Garrett Ross-Johnson has attempted only 68 passes, completing 35 with 9 TD’s and 4 interceptions. Buchanan says while Indian Rocks does like to run the ball, the Golden Eagles can throw if need be.

“We have three, four good backs who can explode at any moment, so we try to get them all on the field at once to spread it out,” Buchanan said. “We do have a quarterback who can sling it, but we haven’t had to use him much because we know where our strength is.”

Indian Rocks has dominated opponents, with 10 running clocks in 12 games. One exception was last week’s 40-19 state semifinal win at Glades Day (Belle Glade). Buchanan says that proved even more to him about this Golden Eagles team.

“That game (at Glades Day) was still up for grabs with about four or five minutes left,” Buchanan said. “I was very proud of how we handled that game at the end and it proved we can still do what normally works for us at the end games.”

Defensively, senior Chris Licea leads the Golden Eagles with 90 tackles, including 11 for loss. Another senior, Fisher Jones, leads Indian Rocks Christian with 18.5 sacks.

A first-time state champion will be crowned on Friday afternoon at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando as Victory Christian and Indian Rocks Christian kick off for the 2A state title at 1:07 PM.

1A state championship preview


Related articles

Recent articles