After their game against North Florida Christian on Friday night, Cardinal Mooney High football players blared a horn that sounded like a truck speeding down the highway.
It was appropriate. In their game against the Eagles, the Cougars ran over their opponents with the force of a truck, hitting NFC with big plays on both sides of the ball early and often on their way to a 41-14 victory.
The win puts the Cougars in the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 1S state championship game. It will be the program's second state title game appearance and the first since 1972. Mooney (11-2) will play Ocala's Trinity Catholic (6-7) at 10 a.m. Dec. 8 at Bragg Memorial Stadium in Tallahassee for the title.
The Cougars got on the board first against NFC, thanks to senior defensive back Zeshon Casimir blocking an Eagles punt. Senior linebacker Jacob Brown picked up the ball after the block and rumbled for a score. Casimir also had an end zone interception on the ensuing NFC drive, one of four Mooney picks against NFC — two courtesy of junior defensive back/receiver Chris McCorkle and one from senior defensive back/receiver Zy'marion Lang.
The Cougars offense did the rest. Senior running back Carson Beach had four touchdowns, three from within two yards and one from eight yards. Lang added a nine-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. And while it did not end in a touchdown, sophomore quarterback Devin Mignery had one of the biggest plays of the game — a 54-yard run — in a response to NFC's first touchdown in the third quarter. Beach would score on the next play.
The Cougars' players drenched Head Coach Jared Clark in a Gatorade bath as the clock approached zero, in a move that spilled onto the field of play and earned the team a penalty. No one on the sideline seemed to mind. After the final whistle, players hooted and hollered and hugged. They posed for photos and blasted the aforementioned truck-style horn. Clark said he wanted his players and staff to enjoy getting this far, though next week, the final challenge begins — and with it comes a chance to fulfill a season-long goal.
"We're going to celebrate for today," Mooney Head Coach Jared Clark said. "But we have to prepare for one more. We have to finish the season.
"It's a little arrogant to say that you expected to play for a (state) title, but we knew we had the talent to do it. And you have to have things go your way. We're healthy. I think that has a lot to do with it. The injury gods smiled on us. But as far as, did I think we'd be playing for a state championship? I thought we had the talent."