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November 4, 2011

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

In a season of firsts for head coach Rocco Casullo, Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas added one it didn't want: Its first season without a district title since 1996.

Cooper City (Fla.) High capitalized on big plays on defense and special teams and held on for a 21-16 win Friday night in Ft. Lauderdale.

The upset ends a 14-year run for Aquinas. The last team to take the district was Sunrise (Fla.) Piper.

St. Thomas Aquinas entered the game No. 14 in the RivalsHigh 100 and No. 11 in the Compilation Poll, but a sputtering offense, struggling special teams play and a few big returns by Cooper City were the difference.

Ahead 3-0 in the first quarter, Aquinas lined up for another field-goal attempt. This time, the kick was blocked. The ball seemingly rolled to a harmless stop when Camden Krohm took advantage of an open field, scooping the ball up and racing 99-yards for a touchdown, giving Cooper City a 7-3 lead.

Aquinas answered back with a nine-play, 61-yard drive that was capped by a Fred Coppett touchdown run as the Raiders took a 10-7 lead into halftime.

Ultimately it was a 47-second span in the third quarter that would prove to be insurmountable for the Raiders.

A Max Lescano interception and subsequent return to the goal line allowed Krohm to go in for a second touchdown, giving the Cowboys a 14-10 lead.

Lescano, who was lauded for his leadership in wins over Prattville and De La Salle, was pulled as the offense struggled.

Junior quarterback John O'Korn entered for Lescano.

O'Korn has had four plays to his credit on the season. A single completion which went for a 54-yard touchdown and three runs for eight yards.

His impact would be felt immediately. Just not in a good way. O'Korn was hit and fumbled. The ball was recovered by Tyson Burch, who took it in from 18 yards out to give Cooper City a 21-10 lead.

Aquinas would answer with a touchdown inside of three minutes to cut the lead to 21-16, but it failed to recover the onside kick. And even with a defensive stop, the Raiders' offense was unable to make plays to move the ball into a scoring position as the time expired.

While Aquinas' ranking had slid after a loss to now-No. 5 Miramar (Fla.) High and the subsequent injuries to Division I prospects Bryan Cox and Jelani Hamilton, it was not the defense that betrayed the Raiders.

The Cowboys only gained 157 yards of total offense and had just seven first downs.

The difference in the game was the Raiders offense, but not in a good way.

Lescano's completion percentage will hover around 50 percent on the season. And as first shown by Miramar but now copied by Cooper City, blitzing the quarterback will create opportunity.

The loss will send Aquinas on the road for the first round of the playoffs next week as it will take on the District 16 champion.

Conversely, the victory will likely boost Cooper City, which was undefeated entering the contest, into the RivalsHigh 100.

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