BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Jeremiah Hamlin ran for 114 yards and scored three touchdowns – including two critical fourth-quarter touchdown runs – to help Jacksonville University Christian beat Warner Christian 26-21 in the Class 2A semifinals.
The game was a defensive battle with big offensive plays sprinkled throughout, but the Jacksonville Christians made the most plays with a bruising running game.
“They were bigger up front, especially on the defensive side. They had more depth with most of their guys didn’t have to play both ways. I am very proud of our kids fight and effort,” responded Steve Allen, Warner’s coach.
Hamlin broke several tackles for 66-yard touchdown to give University a 20-14 lead with 8:00 remaining. He added a four-yard score with 2:20 left making it 26-14.
Warner (11-2) got within 26-21 with 2:05 remaining when Drew Eckles found Khalil Hicks from 25 yards out.
“They stopped our running game and we had some big play opportunities in the passing game but didn’t cash in. They got a lot of pressure on us in passing situations,” commented Allen.
The Eagles failed to recover the onside kick but their defense held, giving them one last chance. A sack and fumble on Eckles two seconds left sealed it.
University (12-1) struck first when Marquis Haynes blocked a punt and Hamlin recovered the ball in the end zone. A two-point conversion made it 8-0.
“We thought it was 12 men on the field on that play. We yelled it, but the official had other things going on. You are at their mercy on the call, but University made a big play,” said Allen.
Marcus Dixon broke for a 99-yard touchdown run with 11:20 to play in the second quarter to get Warner within 8-7.
“They loaded up the box on us tonight. It wasn’t much running room. It hurts that my high school career ends like this. I love my teammates and coaches,” said Dixon.
Hussein Howe’s seven-yard second quarter score put the Jacksonville Christians up 14-7.
Bentlee Critcher took over Warner’s ensuing drive by making some spectacular catches. The drive ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Eckles to Critcher tying the game a 14.
“We put together a good drive, I asked for the ball and they got it to me. I was suffering for cramps throughout the game. It hurts to lose and end my career. I am glad that I made the transition to come here,” stated Critcher.
Critcher finished with five catches for 117 yards, Eckles threw for 158 yards and Dixon had 111 rushing yards with a touchdown for Warner.
The Eagles got big defensive plays from John Harris, Damaris Tillmon and James Paytas.
Howe added 109 rushing yards and Tim Betros threw for 101 yards and ran for 36 for University.
University will play Miami Dade Christian for the Class 2A state on Dec. 7.
Mainland run ends too
Mainland fell to Naples 41-14 in the Class 6A Regional finals.
The Buccaneers’ scores came on an 83-yard touchdown pass from Cameron Hadley to David White and a nine-yard run from Anthony Ludovico.
Hadley threw for 158 yards and ran for another 52 while Stephen Bostick ran for 82 yards for Mainland.
Manny Morgan ran for 222 yards while Kelton Anderson ran for 109 with three touchdowns and threw for another score for the Naples Golden Eagles.
Naples will host Miami Northwestern in the state semifinals next week.
Girls basketball: Atlantic to face Lopez
Father Lopez and Atlantic high schools will play in the Battle of the Best in the ICI Center at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on Dec. 10.
Both teams are ranked in the state polls and expected to compete for state titles.
Atlantic has University of Florida commit Ronni Williams while Lopez has George Washington commit Shannon Crenshaw, Southern Miss commit Ashley Folsom and Liberty commit Simone Brown.
Tip off is at 7 p.m. and admission is $5. For tickets contact Mrs. Cindy Golk at Atlantic, 386-322-6100.
Prep Sports Seven Football (final)
1. *New Smyrna (9-1), 2. *Warner (11-2), 3. *Mainland (9-4), 4. *DeLand (6-5), 5. Flagler Palm Coast (6-4), 6. *Atlantic (8-3), 7. *Trinity (7-4).
*denotes playoff team
Girls: 1. Father Lopez (6-0), 2. Atlantic (5-1), 3. DeLand (6-0), 4. Flagler Palm Coast (4-1), 5. Seabreeze (2-1), 6. Trinity (4-3), 7. Spruce Creek (2-4). Others: Warner (1-1), Calvary (1-1). New Smyrna (3-6). University (1-2)
Boys: 1. Father Lopez (3-0), 2. New Smyrna (4-1), 3. Flagler Palm Coast (4-2), 4. Mainland (1-2), 5. DeLand (2-2), 6. Spruce Creek (2-1), 7. Halifax (2-1). Others: Pine Ridge (2-1), University (2-2), Calvary (2-2), Trinity (1-2), Atlantic (1-2).
Note: Records are of Dec. 3 at 5 p.m.