After the final seconds ticked off the clock at The Master’s Academy and after Saint Stephen’s head football coach Tod Creneti received a Gatorade bath for the second straight Sunshine State Athletic Conference championship, star quarterback Fred Billy was ending his high school career with a conversation.
It was with NFL legend Ray Lewis, who was on hand to watch Saturday’s title game between two undefeated programs because his son, Rashaan, is one of Windermere Prep’s playmakers.
The Falcons had just polished off the Lakers 49-21 when the teams and SSAC officials convened near midfield.
The elder Lewis, who won two Super Bowls with the Baltimore Ravens, chatted with Billy.
Lewis said he enjoyed Billy’s passion for the game.
“Nothing like seeing passion,” Lewis said.
It was evident from the outset.
Saint Stephen’s (10-0) stormed out to a 28-0 lead behind Billy and running back Chase Brown.
“That was probably one of the best moments in my life,” said Billy, who had 146 rushing yards. “Talking to an NFL great. Telling me I’m a great player and he loves everything I’m doing. Telling me to just stay the course and be patient. ... That’s a great moment that I’ll never forget.”
Brown tallied 183 rushing yards in the first half, while the Falcons outgained the Lakers 286-128 in a dominating first 24 minutes.
“There’s nothing better than this,” said Brown, who finished with 201 rushing yards on 23 carries. “Last year, I didn’t have the biggest game but we still won. ... It’s an amazing feeling and I’ve loved every moment of it.”
Oh, there was defense, too.
Demetrius Davis atoned for an early dropped pass with an interception that engineered the explosive first half.
Saint Stephen’s defense forced five turnovers with two interceptions, a fumble and two on downs.
Still, it wasn’t a smooth ride to the title with a Lakers team full of offensive firepower.
Windermere Prep (10-1) closed the gap to 35-15 midway through the third quarter. But that was the closest the Lakers would get.
The Falcons supplied a heavy dose of Brown and Billy. The former tallied five touchdowns in his final high school game.
And Dalton Francis, the team’s center, recovered two onside kicks and a fumble during the Lakers’ comeback attempt. He also made a huge tackle on a fourth-down run that yielded one of the turnovers on downs.
With Saint Stephen’s offense facing little resistance, the Falcons capped another memorable season.
They also wrote a little history, becoming the first two-time SSAC champs in history.
Quite a feat.
And one the seniors won’t soon forget.