Atlantic will have to wait at least one more year to bring a championship trophy back to Delray Beach.
The Eagles fell to Orlando-Dr. Phillips 17-7 in the Class 8A state title game at Camping World Stadium Saturday night, struggling to do much on offense throughout the game. Atlantic finished the season 12-2.
“We just couldn’t protect that well,” Eagles coach T.J. Jackson said. “I don’t know what it was. But I’m proud of the kids. They had a great season. They just fell a little short.
“They never gave up in this game. We just couldn’t get the ball the moving on the offensive side. We couldn’t get field position. That’s what hurt us a lot.”
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Atlantic did not get on the board for the first 44:22 of the game. Antoine Williams scored the Eagles’ only touchdown, running in a 24-yard score late in the fourth quarter.
Although they lost, Atlantic’s offense actually outscored Dr. Phillips’ unit. Fourteen of the Panthers’ 17 points came on defense or special teams, and the rest came on a field goal.
“It’s frustrating, but we had faith in our offense,” defensive lineman Henry Bryant III said. “Sometimes, things don’t just work out the way you want to.”
The Panthers (13-2) got on the board early, as linebacker Japerri Powell blocked an Atlantic punt deep in Eagles territory, scooped it up and ran it in 8 yards for the score.
Dr. Phillips got three more first-half points on a 28-yard field goal by Sterling Stockwell, but otherwise, the Atlantic defense held the Panthers in check.
“They only scored three points on our defense,” Mercier said. “So pretty much, we (manned) up, made sure they didn’t get no yards, no touchdowns, nothing.”
Most of the Eagles’ drives ended in punts or failed fourth-down attempts, and Atlantic rarely got deep into Dr. Phillips territory. When the Eagles got to the Dr. Phillips’ 11-yard line in the third quarter, penalties pushed them back, and they failed on a fourth-down pass.
Atlantic finished the game with 225 offensive yards, more than Dr. Phillips’ 199, but penalties helped kill the Eagles’ chances. Atlantic was flagged 17 times for 109 yards.
The dagger came midway through the fourth quarter, when, after being pinned on a punt at its own 15, Atlantic quarterback Antoine Williams threw an interception to Dr. Phillips linebacker Cameron Williams, who took it to the end zone to give the Panthers a three-possession lead.
The win ends the most successful Atlantic season since 1978, when the Eagles lost in the state championship game. Atlantic had not been back to a title game since then, until Saturday.
“We came a long way,” Mercier said. “We came a long way. … To even make it to states, that’s amazing.”