- Jodie Wagner Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
The matchup everyone expected in the Class 3A state championship game Saturday afternoon lived up to the hype.
Heavyweights Oxbridge Academy and Hollywood-Chaminade Madonna battled for four quarters at chilly Camping World Stadium, with the result coming down to a 19-yard Daniel Longman field goal with four seconds remaining, lifting the Lions to a 31-28 win.
[RELATED: The Post’s exclusive photos from the game]
Chaminade Madonna claimed its third state championship — its first in 12 years. The Lions finished 11-2.
The ThunderWolves, who erased a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit to tie it at 28, ended their season at 10-2.
“It’s been a great season,” Oxbridge coach Brendan Kent said. “Obviously it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but these kids have battled with the hurricanes and some issues on our team.
“This is a great group of kids. I’m going to miss them. They did a great job.”
Oxbridge got off to a good start on defense, stopping the Lions on their first offensive series. But a roughing-the-kicker penalty gave the ball back to Chaminade, and the Lions took advantage.
Shaun Shivers scored three players later on a 7-yard run, and Chaminade Madonna led 7-0 early in the first quarter.
The ThunderWolves came right back, with quarterback Gio Richardson engineering a 12-play, 66-yard drive that ended on a 1-yard Richardson plunge to tie the game at 7.
The junior came up big on the drive, completing two long third-down passes and converting on fourth-and-2 with a short run over the right side.
The Lions went back to Shivers following the ThunderWolves’ score, and the Auburn commit didn’t disappoint.
He broke off a long run to get into Oxbridge territory, and the Lions followed with a 44-yard strike from Daelen Menard to Kentucky commit Akeem Hayes to take a 14-7 lead with 2:14 left in the first quarter.
Shivers closed the opening quarter with 75 rushing yards and had 140 by halftime.
He went right back to work in the second quarter after Oxbridge tied it up on a 20-yard pass from Richardson to James Meeks at 9:22.
A 49-yard Shivers run down the left side put Chaminade Madonna at the ThunderWolves’ 6, and the Lions scored three plays later on Shivers’ 2-yard run to go back out front 21-14 with 7:15 left until halftime.
A pair of punts followed, and on the latter of the two, Oxbridge defensive back Keidron Smith picked up a rolling ball and returned it to the Lions’ 28.
But the drive stalled after the ThunderWolves were stopped on 4th-and-4.
Oxbridge closed the half with a Jason McCleod interception deep in their own territory.
Oxbridge opened the second half with a lengthy drive, highlighted by a 44-yard completion from Richardson to Jordan Cash. The ThunderWolves drove inside Chaminade Madonna’s 15, but they were stopped short again on fourth down.
The Lions took over on their own 11 and marched 89 yards for a score following a 55-yard pass from Menard to Alabama commit Xavier Williams. The touchdown extended the Lions’ lead to 28-14 with 3:49 left in the third.
But Richardson, playing his finest game of the season, brought the ThunderWolves back.
He tossed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Herman McCray to pull Oxbridge within 28-21 with 7:53 remaining, and he tied it up at 28 with 3:27 left on a 16-yard scoring pass to De’John King.
“He left it out here,” Kent said of Richardson, who finished 16-of-33 for 286 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 53 yards and a score. “He played well.”
But the ThunderWolves couldn’t come up with a final stop on defense.
Behind Menard, Chaminade Madonna drove to the ThunderWolves’ 2 as the clock ticked down, and Longman’s kick lifted the Lions to the win.
“We let the quarterback get loose on us,” Kent said of Chaminade Madonna’s final drive. “We accounted for them, but we just weren’t there.”