The 2015 season had been all about defense for the Pembroke Pines Flanagan Falcons. And after one last excellent defensive performance, Flanagan is the 8A state football champions for the first time after a 26-7 win over Kissimmee Osceola at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando Saturday night.

Flanagan (12-2) scored on a 22 yard TD pass from Kato Nelson to Jahcour Pearson with 30 seconds left in the first half to take the lead for good at 14-7, and then let the defense carry them through the second half to finish off Osceola (13-2).

The Falcons defense held the Kowboys to 211 yards total offense, including only 2 yards passing, and capped off the defensive effort with a 27 yard interception return for a score by Stanford Samuels with 1:21 left to put the finishing touches on a state title.

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Flanagan had never even made the playoffs until 2013, but advanced to the state semifinals a year ago before making it to Orlando and the Citrus Bowl for the first time after winning at Miami Columbus 30-17 a week ago in the 8A state semifinals.

Osceola punted to begin the game, and on the next possession Flanagan quarterback Kalyn Nelson was intercepted Kowboys linebacker Connor Parker. Osceola then struck first as a 60 yard drive was capped off by a 45 yard run by Malcolm Davidson to put the Kowboys on top 7-0.

Osceola kept the lead into the second quarter, but the Falcons tied it up at 7 halfway through the period on a 36 yard touchdown strike from Nelson to Jahcour Pearson. Flanagan struck again right before the half, as a 10-play, 92-yard drive was capped off by Nelson’s second touchdown pass to Pearson to give the Falcons the lead for good.

The defensive struggle continued until late in the game. Osceola’s Luis Martinez missed a 32 yard field goal wide left late in the third quarter, and Flanagan’s Angel Trujillo missed a field goal from 39 yards wide right midway through the fourth quarter. The score stayed 14-7 until Flanagan finally put the game on ice on a 21 yard touchdown run by Falon Hicks with 1:37 left. The TD run capped off a short drive after Osceola turned the ball over on downs on their own 17 yards line. The Falcons then added the interception return for a score 16 seconds later.

Nelson finished 16-of-27 passing for 201 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions and rushed for 64 yards on 16 carries for Flanagan. Pearson led the Falcons in receiving with 7 catches for 90 yards and two scores. Defensively, Devin Gil led Flanagan with 12 total tackles, while Jordan Eubanks pitched in with 10 tackles, a sack and a half, and 3 and a half tackles for loss.

Osceola lost in the state championship game for the second year in a row, as they were shutout by St. Thomas Aquinas 31-0 in the 7A title game in 2014. Laderrien Wilson led the Kowboys with 99 yards rushing on 22 carries, with Davidson adding 57 yards on the ground including Osceola’s only touchdown of the evening. Trey Shine led the Kowboys on defense with 15 tackles, a half sack, and a tackle and a half for loss.