“It’s playoff football. Anything can happen.”
If anyone knows that to be true, it’s the man who said it himself.
Andrew Thomas is no stranger to football playoffs.
In his five seasons at Trenton High School, Thomas won state championships in 2013 and 2015 before taking the reigns of the Trinity Catholic football program.
But this isn’t about Coach Thomas.
This is about the players behind him and how they proved doubters wrong Friday night by defeating Jacksonville’s Trinity Christian, 23-21, to advance in the playoffs.
“People in the state, newspaper people... all that, nobody is giving us a chance,” Thomas said after the Celtics’ win. “We paid a little motivation and attention to that.”
Whatever motivation Thomas and his staff concocted seemed to work for the Celtics — though it wasn’t always easy.
The Trinity Christian Conquerors got to the scoreboard first with a five-yard rush from senior running back, KyJuan Herndon.
However, during the Conquerors opening march down the field, Trinity Catholic junior Jamarian Samuel made sure to send an important message to the Conquerors.
In the opening drive, Samuel cracked two ball carriers to set the tone early for the Celtic defense which forced a safety in the second quarter.
“He set the tone on defense,” Thomas said. “Some of the hits he made... he’s a big time player, big time player.”
However, per usual, Samuel’s presence wasn’t only felt on defense.
The junior who primarily takes snaps on offense, came into Friday night with 1,964 yards.
After the game, he had certainly eclipsed the 2,000 milestone.
With three touchdowns (16-yards, 7-yards, 87-yards), Samuel’s 87-yarder with eight minutes to play in the fourth quarter seemed to have been the dagger considering it put the Celtics ahead 23-7.
Except, it wasn’t.
With 3:45 to play, Conquerors’ junior quarterback, Jacory Jordan, fired a strike to Fred Davis, a Clemson commit, for a 35-yard score.
After a converted two-point conversion, Trinity Christian was looking at a single possession deficit.
And when the Conquerors recovered their onside kick, things really got wild.
To no surprise, Jamarian Samuel forced a big pass break up on a ball that was bound to be a big play for the Conquerors.
As the Celtics took back over on offense with 2:29 to play, their time-milking drive stalled. They were forced to punt well inside their own territory.
The snap flew over punter Alvaro Cebrian’s head, but the junior was still able to get it off for the Celtics.
However, return-man, Runye Norton took the punt to the end zone to make it 23-21 with 43 seconds to play.
Needing a two point conversion to force overtime, the Conquerors took their time getting to the line of scrimmage.
Disrupting the backfield quickly was Chase Oliver, while Jamarrien Burt finished off the ball carrier back at the seven-yard line.
No good. Game over.
“It got real scary there at the end,” Thomas laughed. “But hey, we found a way.”
The Celtics and the Conquerors have a history in the playoffs together — making Friday’s win that much more special.
“This has been a little bit of a playoff rivalry. I know they’ve had our number,” Thomas said. “It was good for our program in general to get this win. It’s a signature win.”
The signature wins could keep coming for the Celtics (8-3) as they advance into the Class 3A Region 1 semifinals with a trip to Pensacola Catholic (10-0) next Friday.