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December 15, 2012
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ORLANDO- It probably would be just as fair to call Saturday night's FHSAA Class 8A state championship football game between Apopka and Cypress Bay ridiculous as it would be to declare it magnificent.
One part Arena ball, one part Madden, the two teams combined to establish new standards in offensive excellence. In the process, viewers were left breathless inasmuch as they were left shaking their heads every time the lights changed on the Citrus Bowl scoreboard.
The final score - Apopka 53, Cypress Bay 50 - only serves to slap a label and a victor on the narrative of what will go down as one of the most memorable title tilts in Florida history.
And, in the end, the third-highest scoring game in the 50 years of the FHSAA finals was decided by, of all things, a defensive play. The rarest of gems on this night came with 26 seconds left, as Blue Darters' junior Rakeem Smith intercepted a pass from Jaranta Lewis in the end zone.
It was the only turnover of a shootout that produced an all-classification championship record 1,103 yards (584 by Apopka) and 48 combined first downs (25 by AHS). The interception marked the only time either team failed (in 11 tries) to score after reaching the red zone.
Oh, there's more...
Blue Darters' junior quarterback Zack Darlington was brilliant as a two-way threat, completing 13-of-21 passes for 254 yards with two touchdowns while also rushing 15 times for 125 yards and a score. His favorite target, sophomore Ray Ray Smith, caught five passes for 108 yards, a total that included a 69-yard touchdown reception midway through the second quarter that gave Apopka (13-2) a 29-21 lead.
Only outdone on the scoreboard, the Lightning (12-3) got 22 carries for 170 yards and four scores from Matt Dayes and a 12-for-19, 244-yard, three-touchdown effort from Lewis.
But Cypress Bay's biggest star was receiver Alex Montgomery, who hauled in nine passes for 199 yards and three scores. Two of those touchdowns came on did-you-see-that? one-handed catches that saw the college coaches on hand watching in the end zone spring out of their seats.
However, when it was over, Montgomery covered his eyes for a few seconds before looking up.
In front of him, Apopka players celebrated while many of his teammates collapsed onto the ground and wept.
For very different reasons, it was a moment neither side likely ever will forget.