Hollywood-Chaminade Madonna is unlike any other opponent that Oxbridge Academy has faced during the postseason.
For starters, the Lions already have played the ThunderWolves in the playoffs — twice — with a third meeting set for 10 a.m. Saturday in the Class 3A state title game at Camping World Stadium.
The teams split their previous two matchups, with Oxbridge (10-1) winning a regional semifinal contest in 2015, and Chaminade-Madonna (10-2) following with a regional finals win last season.
Chaminade-Madonna also is loaded with college-level talent, with nine players committed to Division I schools.
Senior running back Shaun Shivers, who is committed to Auburn, leads that group, which also includes wide receiver Xavier Williams — who is headed to Alabama — defensive back Te’Cory Couch, who is committed to Tennessee and defensive lineman Cameron Williams (Florida).
Four other Lions are committed to Kentucky, while guard Sebastian Sainterling is headed to USF.
“They’re as talented as anybody,” said ThunderWolves coach Brendan Kent, whose team’s only loss this season came in Week 1 to state-ranked Archbishop Wood of Warminster, Pa.
“Archbishop Wood is very talented, very physical, and very well-coached. They had some Division I kids as well. But this is definitely the most talented team we’ve seen.”
Oxbridge, however, has plenty of talent of its own, particularly in the secondary.
Within that unit, defensive back Keidron Smith (Mississippi) and V’Lique Carter (Iowa State) already have committed to Division I schools, while C.J. Smith — formerly committed to Florida — is a top 2018 recruit. Antavious Lane also has had a tremendous year for the ThunderWolves, though his status for Saturday’s game is doubtful after he was injured in the regional finals.
“They’re a great ballclub,” Chaminade-Madonna coach Dameon Jones said of Oxbridge, which is playing its third season of FHSAA state series competition. “They kind of mirror us. They’ve got a lot of great athletes, so I’m very impressed with their team. I’m excited about playing them Saturday.”
The Lions got the best of the ThunderWolves in last year’s postseason, winning 30-13 at home in the regional finals. Chaminade-Madonna then won its state semifinal and advanced to the state championship game, where it fell 24-13 to Jacksonville-Trinity Christian.
Though Kent is more familiar with the Lions than any other team the ThunderWolves have faced in the postseason, they present a whole new set of challenges despite having similar personnel from last year.
“You’ve got to prepare for what they present to you on film,” Kent said. “We preach to our team that this is a four-quarter game. You’ve got to play this thing together. It’s 11-on-11. At the end of the day, it’s what this game is about. It’s about playing together and playing hard for each other.”
ThunderWolves defensive back Keidron Smith is eager to take the field Saturday.
“It’s going to be a tough game, but this is what I believe both teams have been waiting for,” he said. “This will be the third time we have met, but this time it’s on the biggest stage. My team is ready to play.”