MIAMI GARDENS -- With two programs both ranked in the top-five nationally meeting at Sun Life Stadium on Friday night, who would have thought this first-ever meeting would involve a running clock by the third quarter?
But that is exactly what happened.
Seven-time state champion Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas jumped out to a 24-0 lead by halftime and dominated American Heritage-Plantation, 38-7, in the season opener for both teams.
Heritage (0-1), the defending Class 5A state champion, came into the contest ranked No. 5 in the country by MaxPreps. Also, they are ranked No. 3 in the Florida High School Top 25 presented by FloridaHSFootball.com and FlaVarsity.com. St. Thomas (1-0) entered ranked No. 3 by both MaxPreps and USA Today, and No. 3 in the Florida Top 25.
"Our kids were jacked up," St. Thomas Coach Rocco Casullo said. "We haven't played since that loss to Dwyer [last year in the playoffs] -- well, we had the preseason game against Dillard. But we just played a team that was top 10 in the nation. This is a great performance for us."
University of Miami Class of 2015 running back commit Jordan Scarlett played a pivotal role in the blowout. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound senior rushed for 127 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. He also had two receptions for 50 yards -- including a 46-yarder.
Scarlett punctuated his performance with his third TD of the evening -- a 9-yarder -- with 4:18 to play in the third quarter to give the Raiders a commanding 38-0 lead. From that point on the game was played with a running clock.
"[We] definitely sent a national statement to everyone, letting them know, you know, that St. Thomas is here to go all the way this year and hopefully that's what we do," said Scarlett, who transferred to St. Thomas Aquinas from Davie University School.
"He's as good as advertised," Casullo added. "That kid is a hard worker."
The loss stunned Heritage and coach Mike Rumph.
"I'm feeling like we need to learn from this loss and push on," Rumph said. "You know, we were in the same predicament last year coming off of losing to [Miami] Central. So, we just need to go back and watch the film, learn from what they did well and figure out ways that we can get better."
After St. Thomas went up 3-0 on a 39-yard field goal on its second possession of the game, Scarlett made it 10-0 when he got loose for a 62-yard TD run down the right sideline 30 seconds into the second quarter.
Florida Atlantic commit Jawuan Harris would set up the Raiders' next score with a blocked punt that gave STA the ball at the Heritage 13. Quarterback Jake Rizzo would take it in from 14 yards out and it was 17-0 St. Thomas with 6:36 to play before halftime.
Raiders running back Deltron Sands, a Maryland commit, then got into the act with a 6-yard TD run 34 seconds before the intermission to make it 24-0. At the half, while St. Thomas had accounted for three rushing TDs, Heritage had just three first downs to show for its effort.
"They dominated us up front," Rumph said. "The [Heritage] O-Line had some issues. They did a good job up front with their defensive line. ... Nine dropped balls don't help, and a plethora of penalties in key situations whether it was third-and-1 or third-and-5, we got pushed back because of the penalties. So, you combine that with the blocked kick, you start off slow you are going to get in a hole and that's what we got into early on."
In the second half, a 41-yard connection from Rizzo to Canes 2016 WR commit Sam Bruce set the stage for Scarlett's second TD run -- this time from 2 yards out. His 9-yarder later in the quarter was the final nail.
"I think I had a great performance but I have to give really good thanks to my offensive line, and the receivers, and Deltron Sands about having really great blocking for me," said Scarlett, who did his damage in less than three full quarters.
Of the 62-yard scoring run, Scarlett said, "I definitely saw it right away. Once you see opportunities like that, you've gotta take the chance and I just took the opportunity and it turned out great."
It was a rough outing for talented American Heritage senior quarterback Torrance Gibson, who was 8-for-19 passing for 61 yards. The Patriots' lone TD came on a 24-yard pass from Gibson to junior WR Brandon Johnson with 9-plus minutes left.
Likewise, Canes 2016 wide receiver commit Dredrick Snelson was held in check by St. Thomas. Snelson didn't have a reception for longer than 5 yards.
It marks the third consecutive season St. Thomas has opened its season with a victory at Sun Life Stadium. The Raiders defeated Miami Columbus in 2012 and Miami Northwestern a year ago.
Pat Lammer is publisher of CaneInsider.com. You can follow him via Twitter @PLamRecruiting