Mandarin beats Columbus 37-35 to win state 8A title

Carson Beck throws 5 TD passes, Demario Douglas catches finals record 4 TDs

By Cole Pepper - Sports anchor/reporter, Brian Jackson - Digital sports reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Mandarin quarterback Carson Beck threw five touchdowns, a state finals record four to wide receiver Demario Douglas as Mandarin won their first ever state football championship, 37-35 over Miami Columbus on Saturday.

Mandarin (11-4) joined Raines as the second Duval County public school win a state football championship in 2018 and became the second Duval County School to ever win a state championship. 

Beck finished 25 of 36 passing for 329 yards and 5 touchdowns with no interceptions. Douglas became the first player to ever catch 4 touchdown passes in a state finals game in Florida. He finished with nine catches for 141 yards while fellow wide receiver Kris Mitchell caught seven passes for 118 yards as the Mustangs handed the Explorers (14-1) their only loss of the year. 

Mandarin found themselves trailing early when Columbus quarterback Brandon McDuffey found Xzavier Henderson for a 71-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. But the Mustangs responded, scoring the next 17 points of the game. 

Beck connected with Douglas on a 23-yard touchdown pass, then on the final play of the first quarter, Beck found Mitchell for a 41-yard touchdown. Hudson Levine's 27-yard field goal gave Mandarin a 17-7 lead with 7:10 to play before Halftime. 

The teams exchanged touchdowns before the break. McDuffey's pass to Kalani Norris from 14 yards out brought Columbus to within a field goal before Beck and Douglas collaborated on another touchdown pass, this one from 11 yards out that capped an eight-play, 57-yard drive to give the Mustangs a 24-14 halftime lead. 

In the third quarter, Columbus took advantage of a bad snap on a Mandarin punt and took over at the Mustangs' 45 yard line. It took one play for Henderson to make another big play, this time hauling in a 45 yard touchdown pass from McDuffey. It was a 3-point game again, but not for long.

It took Beck just four plays to drive 57 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown pass to Douglas. The extra point failed, and the Mustangs' lead was nine. In the fourth quarter, Beck threw his fifth touchdown of the night and his fourth to Douglas, this time from 29 yards to stretch the lead to 37-21 with 10:48 remaining in the game.

Columbus came charging back behind a pair of McDuffey touchdown passes, the first to Norris from 32 yards out, then another to Henderson with 1:17 to play to draw to within two points.

But the 2-point conversion attempt was stopped when the Mustangs stuffed running back Henry Parrish on the run. The Mustangs recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock to clinch the game and the championship.

McDuffey also threw five touchdown passes, three to Henderson and two to Norris. Parrish ran for 147 yards in the loss.

Mandarin played one of the toughest schedules in the state and looked like a battle-tested team during the second half. 

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