Trinity Christian has won three straight Class 3A state titles. Berkeley Prep has never played in a state championship game.
The Buccaneers (9-2) will try to continue their impressive postseason run on the road against a poised Conquerors group.
Berkeley Prep avenged a regular season loss to Tampa Catholic by dominating the Crusaders 42-6 with a running clock in last Friday’s region final. TC knows Trinity Christian very well as it lost to the Conquerors (9-3) in two of the last three state semifinals.
“The mindset after the Tampa Catholic game is that we can beat anybody,” senior running back Gordon Stetson said. “Beating a great team like that with ample talent on their roster is going to provide a lot of momentum and confidence heading into this week against a tough Trinity Christian team.”
Stetson put the team on his back against Tampa Catholic, totaling 238 yards and a touchdown on 28 touches. His sophomore counterpart Jakob Hines had 51 yards and two scores in that game.
Sophomore athlete Josh Youngblood has made plays this season as a key pass catcher for senior quarterback Davis Koetter. The speedster has 332 yards and a touchdown on 20 receptions. He says he’s expecting a physical game.
“We know that they’re a tremendous team and have great tradition,” Youngblood said. “We need to play our hardest on all aspects of the game to come out on top.”
Senior defensive back Zack Mayes leads the defense with four interceptions. He shows up as a playmaker often and has clearly been in film study since Friday night’s game ended.
“From what I’ve seen they like to balance their offense with running and passing, but I’m not too worried about our pass defense,” Mayes said. “Our coverage is good enough to give our defensive line time to get the sack.
Stopping the run is going to be crucial for a defensive win. Our offense has been on a hot streak and if 3 [Stetson] has a good game who knows what will happen.”
Seniors Legend Brumbaugh, Rasheed Martin and Shaun Wade is the trio to watch for Trinity Christian. Brumbaugh has 16 total touchdowns at quarterback, Martin has 14 and Wade has six.
“We are focused on playing our game, fixing the couple of errors we had and building off that,” Stetson said.
Defensively, senior defensive end Deon Pate has been everything and more for Trinity Christian. The Appalachian State commit has 10 sacks and a forced fumble.
10th-year head coach Dominick Ciao always brings loaded gameplans. Stetson says that Ciao and his staff have been preaching the chance to make history all week long.
Speeches from Ciao come often especially here in the postseason.
“He reminds us that we need to play a perfect 48 minutes every game in order to win,” Youngblood said. “He also has told us that we should enjoy the moment because it is truly special.”
Going into this game with the underdog mentality is something Berkeley Prep will do. That has been the strategy all season and here down the stretch. Stetson has played with that mentality his whole life as an undersized workhorse back.
Mayes made it clear that his team needs take this hot streak into Friday’s state semifinal in Jacksonville.
Trinity Christian owns an 18-2 record on its home field over the last three seasons. It is no easy task to beat the Conquerors no matter where they play. This is the same team that took 4A Cocoa to overtime in the season opener.
Even as a underclassmen, Youngblood understands the importance of this game.
“It would mean a lot to everybody on our team, especially our seniors to win it all,” Youngblood said. “Even though winning it all is our goal, we have to stay focused each week and take advantage of the opportunity presented at hand.”
Mayes is the younger brother of former Berkeley Prep quarterback and current Lehigh starter Brad Mayes. He is going to be happy with the outcome no matter what happens.
“I love this team and I couldn’t be more proud of how far we’ve come,” he said.
The Buccaneers have been doubted all season. They weren’t a lock for the playoffs after opening the year 2-2. They have rattled off two convincing postseason wins over Orlando First Academy and highly talented Tampa Catholic.
With the toughest task on tap for Friday night, Berkeley Prep knows what needs to be done to earn the biggest win in program history.
At the very least, this group is prepared. What will happen after that is anyone’s guess.
Jake Perper is the scout for Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to write below or email Jake at firstname.lastname@example.org.