ORLANDO, Fla. – Making the school's first appearance in a state football final made 2017 historic for Baker County. Facing one of the best high school football teams in the nation made the last chapter painful.
Plantation American Heritage (13-0), ranked seventh nationally by USA Today, scored 37 points before halftime and cruised to the Florida 5A championship, 44-15, the third in school history.
The Wildcats could've easily folded at half-time but that's not what Baker County football is about. "This was was 72 years in the making for our team," said head coach Jamie Rodgers after the game. "We weren't going to come out and not play hard. I can promise you that. These guys have a ton of character and that's what playing football is all about. I love those guys."
Baker County (13-2), like most of the schools American Heritage faced this year, couldn't contend with the speed of the Patriots. American Heritage quarterback Cam Smith threw touchdown passes of 39 yards to Joshua Alexander and 43 yards to Anthony Schwartz and Schwartz ran for a 37 yard touchdown as American Heritage put the game away early, leading to an unusual occurrence, a state finals game with a running clock.
Baker County scored on their opening possession of the second half on a Seth Paige three yard touchdown run, then the Wildcats Lee Graham recovered an onside kick and the Baker County promptly scored again on a 48 yard touchdown pass from Paige to Graham.
Stopping American Heritage proved too much. The Patriots did not punt the entire game.
"That was a great team we played," said Paige who finished with two touchdowns. "They're very physical and fast. They're really good and I'm happy to be able to play against a team like that."
Both Baker County and University Christian finished as state runners up on Friday. UC lost to Champagnat Catholic in the 2A finals. Bartram Train is the final local team to play in the finals. They face Venice at 3 p.m. Saturday in the 7A finals.