(1) St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders vs. (3) Booker T. Washington Tornadoes
Friday at Traz Powell Stadium, 7:30 p.m.
How awesome is it that we’re getting the sequel to this match up?

And I’m willing to guarantee you that the sequel will be better than the original.

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St. Thomas Aquinas enters as the consensus preseason national No. 1 team. The Raiders are oozing with talent at every position and they have one of the best coaching staffs in the country, too.

Watching Aquinas during the preseason, one couldn’t help but come away impressed with how pretty much everything clicked into place for them. Sometimes, when a team has a lot of new players, they go through an adjustment period and can look a little disjointed in certain aspects.

Not St. Thomas.

Booker T. was also very impressive in its preseason game. While the Tornadoes are four-time defending Class 4A state champions, I think people slightly underestimated just how good they’d be this season. No one said Booker T. would be a five-loss team again this season, but a lot of people were surprised at how the Tornadoes dismantled American Heritage.

I’m calling it the “Ice Effect”.

Looking at this matchup and taking into account the team’s respective preseason performances, I think you have to still give the edge to Aquinas.

St. Thomas doesn’t have any inherent weaknesses. They can beat you running the ball, they can beat you throwing the ball and they can beat you with their defense.

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I have a feeling that Booker T. will try to load up against the run – trying to stymie Mike Epstein and Kyshaun Bryan – and be very aggressive in rushing the passer. The Tornadoes will essentially allow their defensive backs to play man coverage and force St. Thomas quarterback Jake Allen to make throws under pressure.

Simply put, Booker T. will “make Allen beat them”.

It makes sense considering Booker T. has a disruptive and dominant trio of rushers in Jaquan Beaver, Guy Thomas and Robert Hicks and they have a very athletic secondary spearheaded by Dedrick Mackey.

While I think Hicks, Thomas and Beaver will create some pressure; Aquinas is a better offensive team than American Heritage and they have many more weapons – bonafide game breakers – that Allen can get the ball to quickly and they make big things happen.

Also, don’t forget that St. Thomas’ defense will be looking to put the pressure on Booker T. sophomore Daniel Richardson. Yes, Richardson looked good against Heritage’s vaunted secondary, but St. Thomas’ defensive backfield is just as talented and is even more experienced.

Booker T. will be jacked for the game, especially with it being at Traz Powell Stadium, and the last thing I expect to see from a Tim Harris-coached team is for it to lay down; so for that reason, I think the game will be much closer than last year’s showdown.

Ultimately, though, I think it’ll be Aquinas’ overall depth that lifts them to a victory.

Bald Prediction = St. Thomas Aquinas wins 31-14

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