You've read it before: Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas is a state football champion.
Yep, the mega-power added a ninth state title last Friday in convincing fashion.
The Raiders won 45-10, generating a mercy-rule running clock and yielding only a single touchdown as time expired in the fourth quarter.
So would Braden River have left Orlando's Citrus Bowl with the program's first -- and the county's ninth -- state crown had they gotten past Aquinas in the Class 7A state semifinals?
That's a hypothetical question that can't be answered, but here's a hypothetical that should happen: the Florida High School Athletic Association should make a change to the playoff format.
It's time to divide the private and public school programs.
Sure, Aquinas vs. Miami Booker T. Washington or IMG Academy vs. Manatee or Braden River are games everyone would watch during the regular season.
But those matchups aren't for the postseason. Not now. The playing field just isn't level.
Private schools can recruit. Well, they aren't supposed to recruit under the FHSAA banner. However, the perceived view is that it's happening anyway.
IMG Academy doesn't shy away from the recruiting label, which is why the Ascenders play as an independent.
Aquinas, meanwhile, avoids the recruiting label and it's why the Raiders recently polished off their ninth state championship title. And with that ninth title -- its fifth since 2007 -- should come the realization that the distinction between private schools that can recruit from wherever and public schools that fill their roster from the immediate community around them just needs to happen already.
States like New Jersey and Texas have separate playoffs for public and private schools. Florida is a big enough state to follow suit.
This isn't about making sure everyone gets a state championship trophy. On the contrary, it's about making it fair for public schools to compete for a state title without going against an All-Star team.
There's no proof Aquinas recruits players, which is why the program has built a dynasty that hasn't crumbled amid controversial scandal.
However, this year's team brought in a ton of transfers.
Some, like Michael Irvin Jr., had ties to the school. Irvin's father, the famous Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin Sr., played for the Raiders in the 1980s. He didn't begin there, though, and had to sit out his junior season due to transferring back then.
That fate didn't fall on his son. And a bunch of other players entered the program this year as well.
When center Louie Berkowitz claimed a state title for the Raiders this season for the third time in his career, having won two with Plantation American Heritage after starting his career at Fort Lauderdale University, it was a sign that the system is broken.
Irvin Jr. told the Miami Herald that he wanted to win a state title as part of why he came to the Broward County program.
Berkowitz expressed his reasoning in an interview with Recruiting News Guru.
"It is a different kind of story," he said. "I was at University my freshman and sophomore year, and my whole middle school career. When Coach (Roger) Harriot left for Florida Atlantic, I left, too, as well as about 15 other kids. I went to American Heritage. At that point I thought that would be the best fit for me academically and athletically. Then Coach Harriot came back to high school coaching and that's when I decided to transfer to play my last year with my first head coach."
You can decide for yourself whether or not that falls under the umbrella of recruiting.
Regardless, the point here is not to criticize or change the way private schools operate their football program. Just separate the private programs and allow them to do what they're currently allowed to do, while holding public school programs to a different standard (no recruiting).
Look, the FHSAA did accomplish this at the lowest level by having the urban and rural programs separated. But it's simply not enough. And further, there aren't enough private programs with the enrollment size that Aquinas has to make that a viable solution.
Then again, when you can recruit, does it matter what the enrollment numbers are? And who wouldn't want to see IMG face Aquinas in a potential private school state title game?
Just like who wouldn't want to see Braden River, Manatee, Palmetto, Southeast, Lakewood Ranch or Bayshore competing for a state title against another similar-type football program?
The Hurricanes had playoff runs ended by Aquinas on more than one occasion, while the Pirates suffered that fate this past fall.
So let's just finally make it happen: private school playoffs and public school playoffs.
Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill and like his Facebook page at Jason Dill Bradenton Herald.