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ORLANDO - The University School Suns have finished the mission they set to accomplish at the beginning of the season erasing a 17-point deficit and scoring 24 unanswered points to defeat Madison County 24-17 to win the Class 3A State championship.
But it wasn't over until Madison County's Neal Brown was brought down one yard short - at the University School 11 yard line - with just 1 minute left. Brown needed one more yard on the pass from D.J. McKnight to give the Cowboys one more shot to tie the game.
The Cowboys needed 17 yards because of Skai Moore - who sacked McKnight on a jail-break blitz two plays earlier.
It was a day in which many thought the Suns (11-0) would cruise to a title given their national ranking and ability to put points on the board and quickly, but as a certain broadcaster on a certain four-letter network says, "not so fast my friend."
The Cowboys brought their hardhats and lunch pails from the Big Bend of Florida holding sensational sophomore RB Jordan Scarlett below 100 yards (13 carries for 78 yards, TD) and used a stifling defense that harassed Broward County Player of the Year (and USF commit) QB Mike White for most of the game. The Sr. QB finished the day 21-31, 282yards and 2TD's.
Madison jumped out to a 17-0 lead, despite fumbling on the opening possession deep in their own territory. The Cowboys defense held University on a key fourth-down play - then went on a clock-eating drive - drawing first blood when Zack Money kicked a 27 yard field goal to cap a 9 play-66 yard drive.
Madison took a 10-0 lead on a 13-play, 62-yard drive that capped when Bruton went in from one yard out on a fourth-and-goal. Madison added another touchdown on McKnight's 40-yard pass to Shedrick Williams - who was all alone - and scored with 4:38 remaining in the half.
Head Coach Mike Coe and their Wing-T Offense had U-School on their heels for most of the game with Keyon Bruton spearheading the attack with 113 yards on 30 carries and a touchdown.
Madison County controlled the ball for 29 of the 48 minutes, with four drives of nine plays or greater.
The key moment in the game actually occurred just before halftime when White threw a pass intended for Jordan Cunningham that should have been intercepted, but went through Williams' hands.
On the very next play, White found Dionte Taylor from 15 yards out to bring the score to 17-10 and with University School receiving the ball to begin the second half, momentum had begun to swing squarely into the favor of University.
Not to be denied, Scarlett that started to put his team on his back, picking up 69 of those yards in the second half.
Still, when Scarlett got into the end zone with a 16-yard run, the Suns missed the extra point and Madison County still led 17-16 after three.
"I just really love my team and these seniors, " said Scarlett, a sophomore. "We just came out. We had a few stumbles at the beginning, but we did what we had to do to get the victory. The best thing to do is just to stay humble at this point. When you stay humble the best things in life come to you, and today was an example of that; I'm just gonna keep working hard and do everything I can to help bring another title to University School."
Twice Madison County had chances to convert turnovers - and twice those chances slipped through the Cowboys' hands. Both times University scored on the very next play.
University's game-winning drive was created by the Suns' defense, which stopped Bruton on a fourth-and-two at the University 40. That fourth-down stop - more than anything - turned the tide.
Until Cunningham's catch.
White when up top two plays later - and Cunningham came down right on the University sideline - clutching the ball in his right hand and landing his left inside the boundary.
Five plays later, White found Emmanuel Soto for the game-winner.
As the teams dispersed to their sides for medal presentations, an understandably shaken Madison County Head Coach Mike Coe was at a loss for words.
"I just hurt for my kids. I don't know what else we could have done," Coe said. "We've got kids going both ways and they played their guts out. I don't know what else I or we could've done. I'm just hurting for these kids."
U-School HC Roger Harriot put the game into perspective.
"We teach our kids how to be resilient," Harriot said. "We talk a lot about integrity and that's what happened today with our kids. I'm excited for University School and Nova Southeastern University. Our kids showed a ton of heart and my hat goes off especially to Coach Coe and his kids from Madison.
"They played their butts off. The brought the best out of us today and gave our kids a lesson to be learned beyond what happened on this field today. The state championship and title means a lot, but it's more exciting to watch kids overcome adversity and succeed. "