It's been 12 years since Lakeland won a state title, the longest drought since Bill Castle became head coach in 1976. The wait is over.
ORLANDO — It’s been 12 years since Lakeland won a state title, the longest drought since Bill Castle became head coach in 1976.
The wait is over.
The Dreadnaughts shocked Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas on Friday night at Camping World Stadium for their seventh state title, the first since they defeated St. Thomas 45-42 in double-overtime in 2006 in Miami.
"It’s just been too long that we’ve been here," Lakeland principal Deron Collins said. "I’m so happy for coach Castle. He’s done a tremendous job with the team, the coaches, the community that came out tonight. It’s phenomenal."
Lakeland, which completed a 15-0 season, previously won state titles in 1986, 1996, 1999, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Every state championship year except the first ended with perfect records.
This also is the fifth time Lakeland has defeated St. Thomas Aquinas in the championship game. The Dreadnaughts are now 5-1 vs. the Raiders in the title game and 6-2 overall in the playoffs. The victory avenges a 56-7 loss to St. Thomas in 2008, the last time Lakeland was in the title game.
"I think its the most exciting thing since I’ve been here in 16, 17 years," said Lakeland athletic director Deron Collins, who won a basketball state title as head coach in Haines City. "I’m thrilled for coach Castle. He’s such a hard worker. He grinds every day."
And for Castle, the state title remains special.
"I’m just so proud of our football team," he said. "All of them contributed. It was a team effort. Our kids deserved it. They worked hard."