The Jesuit Tigers hold up the 2021 Class 6A State Championship after coming back from behind on Pine Forest to win 35-29 at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Sat. Dec. 18, 2021. [Joshua WIlson/FloridaHSFootball.com]

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – In the nightcap and the final game of the 2021 season, the 2021 FHSAA Class 6A State Championship pitted two teams that have not seen the sights of a state championship game for a hot minute between Pine Forest and Jesuit.

Pine Forest was making their first state championship appearance since 2006 while Jesuit was making the first appearance in the game since 1992. The last time Pine Forest won the state championship in 2000 while Jesuit was looking for the first state championship victory since 1968.

In the end, it was a hard-fought game that saw Jesuit (15-0) come back from behind to win 35-29 over Pine Forest (12-2) to win their first state championship in 53 years, capping off a perfect season that will likely have them finish in the Top 10 national ranking for the first time in school history.

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Here are six takeaways from the game:

FIRST-QUARTER SHOCKERS

The first quarter put some shock into the expectation of how most thought this game would go.

With Jesuit receiving the ball, after winning the coin toss to start the game, the Tigers took the opening possession 70 yards down the field in 4 plays that were set up by Luke Knight to Junior Vandeross 63-yard pass play for a touchdown.

On that touchdown, that is when Joquez Smith would run it in for paydirt from 10 yards out to put Jesuit up 7-0 over Pine Forest with 10:29 to go in the first quarter.

For Pine Forest, they went three-and-out on the first drive, punting the ball back to Jesuit.

However, it wouldn’t be long before Jesuit made a mistake when Knight had a miscommunication on offense that saw Tyrese Thomas step in front of a pass at the Eagles 15-yard line, returning it 39 yards to the Jesuit 46.

And it only took six plays for the Eagles to capitalize off the Tigers’ mistake with a four-yard Tierra Wilson quarterback keeper to tie the game up 7-7 with 6:13 remaining in the first quarter.

PINE FOREST STUNS AT HALF

The Eagles stunned the state when they took a 15-14 lead with 12 seconds left before the half.

The play that got the Eagles the lead came on a Wilson pass to Donielle Hayes from 25 yards out with Wilson converting the ensuing two-point conversion that was set up by an offsides penalty on Jesuit to take the lead.

The halftime lead got people talking around the state wondering if the Eagles had a chance, and they did.

PINE FOREST PUTS THE PRESSURE BUT JESUIT STARTS TO CLAW BACK IN THE THIRD QUARTER

The Eagles got the ball to start the second half and they knew to keep the momentum up that they would need to go out and put points on the board with the victory.

And with that came a long eight-play, 70-yard drive that took nearly five minutes off the third-quarter clock with Tierra Wilson calling his own number for the second time in the game with 7:11 left that put the Eagles up 22-14.

But they weren’t done adding to the pressure on Jesuit.

With 2:04 left in the third quarter, Tyrese Thomas would step in front of a Luke Knight pass, something he would do three times in the game that set up one play drive with a Miequle Brock 28-yard touchdown run to extend the Eagles’ lead to 29-14 with 1:57 left.

With that score though, Jesuit could have folded, but instead, choose to finally respond in a way that started the comeback that would turn the momentum back in the favor of the Tigers.

That momentum swing would come on a two-play, 64-yard drive with 1:14 left in the quarter to cut the Eagles’ lead to 29-20 after a two-point conversion failed.

BACKBREAKING FOURTH QUARTER FOR PINE FOREST

The Eagles found that sometimes it is hard to keep the momentum going and that came to show up in the fourth quarter when Jesuit started to make their comeback.

The first part of the back-breaking situation came when Jesuit forced Pine Forest into a three-and-out early into the fourth quarter that came after the Jesuit touchdown near the end of the third quarter.

That then got coupled quickly when Vandeross was quickly found by Knight from 28 yards out with 11:18 to go in the game to cut the lead for the Eagles down to two points, 29-27.

On the ensuing kickoff after the Jesuit touchdown, Hayes took the kickoff return 86 yards before being pushed out of bounds at the Jesuit five-yard line.

It was there that the second part of the back-breaking quarter came into play where Jesuit tighten things up on the Pine Forest offense shutting Wilson down on four quarterback sneaks, shutting things down at the Tiger’s own one-yard line, and forcing a turnover on downs.

Now, if there was any hope after that, It was when Thomas intercepted another Knight pass at the Jesuit 34, returning it to the Jesuit 25 yard line before fumbling it and having it recovered by teammate Dequan Johnson at the 23 that would set up another potential scoring opportunity.

In a series of six plays, things went from promising to damaging when Tierra Wilson threw the ball on third-and-goal from the five-yard line right into the hands of Hayes Greep, who brought it out to the Tigers nine-yard line with 3:23 left to go in the game.

THE COMPLETION OF THE COMEBACK

Jesuit was in pursuit of the comeback and even though Knight had already thrown four interceptions in the game, the final full drive for the Tigers would come to be Knight’s pivotal moment in the game.

On the second play of the drive, Knight found Jaydn Girard on a 78-yard pass play taking the ball from the Jesuit 10 to the Pine Forest 12-yard line which move the Tigers inside the 10 after the Eagles got called a sideline interference call.

When things got down to third and goal for the Tigers, that is when Knight would find Girard again from seven yards out to retake the lead 35-29 with a successful two-point conversion by Joquez Smith.

With Pine Forest getting the ball back with 37 seconds after the kickoff going out of bounds there was one last shot for the Eagles’ to potential tie or win the game, however on the first play of the drive on the drop back, Wilson was intercepted by linebacker AJ Cottrill at the Eagles 40 to seal the game up followed by two kneel-downs.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

In the Class 6A State Championship game, there were 727 yards of offense combined by both Jesuit and Pine Forest with Jesuit finishing the game with 441 yards (352 passing, 89 rushing) while Pine Forest had 286 yards of offense (205 yards rushing, 81 passing).

Combined both teams tossed six interceptions with Jesuit throwing four interceptions while Pine Forest only threw two interceptions.

INTERCEPTIONS RECORD TIED

For Tyrese Thomas, he will hold a spot in the FHSAA State Championship record book with his record-tying three interceptions which tied a record that was set in 1969 by Bobby Bennett of Blake in the Class A game vs. Leesburg in 1969 and by E.J. Johnson of Cocoa in 2008 vs. Godby in the Class 3A game.

For Thomas, his three interceptions racked 57 yards in return yardage for the Eagles.

COACH’S WORD – MATT THOMPSON

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