JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With a roster half full of seniors who have played together for four years, Mandarin High's first state title was an emotional victory Saturday.
The nail-biter title game against Miami Columbus came down to a crucial defensive play as the Mustangs' hopes of making history hinged on a two-point conversion attempt with 1:17 to play.
"You never know. Any play can happen and obviously the two-point was a big moment, but I knew my teammates were going to come through,” defensive lineman Michael Shimko said.
Come through they did.
Mandarin stuffed the running play to stay ahead by two points, recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock to defeat Columbus 37-35.
As Coach Bobby Ramsay celebrated with his team, he had a feeling a cold shower was coming.
"Tyler grabbed me and gave me a hug, and it was a little too long of a hug. I knew something was coming, and I knew I was going to get doused,” Ramsay said.
The tradition punctuated a special moment for the team that was many years in the making.
"It's a friendship. It's the best friends I'll have for the rest of my life,” Shimko said. “The work we were able to put in -- all the hot days and summers -- workouts you never want to wake up for -- just all paid off, and it was extraordinary."
Wide receiver DeMario Douglas made history, becoming the first player in Florida history to catch four touchdown passes in a state finals game. He said the support from the community really helped bring home the win.
"Through the losses and wins, our stadium was packed. Going to Orlando, our stadium was packed -- so it's nice to see that the city still supports us,” Douglas said.
Looking ahead to bright futures, the seniors said they are looking forward to playing against each other on the college football field.