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September 24, 2011

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

The debate heading into Friday night's huge game between No. 4 Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas and No. 8 Concord (Calif.) De La Salle centered around which team was better. Or which state. Or which offensive style. Or ... well, just about anything.

Except the quarterbacks. That seemed to be the one sure thing.

How could the edge not go convincingly to De La Salle? It had Bart Houston - a four-star Elite 11 recruit who led the school to a state crown last season and is headed to D-I Wisconsin next season. St. Thomas Aquinas had Max Lescano, who was making just his third career start and was considered the team's biggest question mark when the season started.

When it was over, there was no debating which team was better. St. Thomas Aquinas rolled to a 30-6 victory - thanks to the play at quarterback.

Lescanco was 9-for-15 for 152 yards and rushed nine times for 58 yards and a score.

He wasn't overwhelming, but he was well-timed, elusive and effective.

He was the reason Aquinas won the football game.

Lescano was able to make plays with his legs, twice picking up first downs on third-and-12 in the first half. He also scored on a quarterback draw to extend the Aquinas lead in the third quarter. He got it done.

Then there was Houston.

He was responsible for two lost fumbles, an interception and a shanked punt that led directly to 24 points. It was easily the worst game of his career.

De La Salle's only points came on a TD pass - from Andrew Buckley to Anthony Williams.

It was a gadget play - coming right before halftime - but it got De La Salle back into the game as it cut the lead to 10-6. When Aquinas opened the third quarter with a three-and-out, it appeared the momentum was with De La Salle. Then two costly sequences put the game out of reach.

And both were at the expense of the De La Salle signal-caller.

After moving the ball from its 20, Houston fumbled on the Spartan side of the field. Aquinas defensive leader Cole Champion fell on the ball.

A few plays following the fumble, Aquinas extended the lead to 17-6 on Fred Coppet's second score of the game.

The next drive would be a three-and-out for De La Salle. It was a series that cost the Spartans 5 yards and forced Houston back to punt.

His 10-yard punt put Aquinas back in business starting with plus field position on the 35.

Lescano put the metaphoric exclamation point on the game, punching in his touchdown and extending the score to 24-6.

De La Salle was able to move the ball - like it had done for much of the game - when its fourth turnover was committed, sealing the fate of the California power and perhaps its state, as well.

The loss eliminated De La Salle from the national title discussion and could be further evidence that the state of California is down this year. Its top teams have not performed on the national stage with Westlake (Calif.) Oaks Christian and Mission Viejo (Calif.) High already succumbing to out-of-state opponents leaving just Anaheim (Calif.) Servite with an opportunity to salvage a major win.

Aquinas, meanwhile, earned another solid win and likely a stock boost in its claim to another national title.

Whether it can navigate the rest of its schedule is still to be determined. The team will have two weeks before its fourth nationally-ranked opponent in five weeks makes its way to challenge the Raiders as Miramar (Fla.) High comes to Ft. Lauderdale.

Should Aquinas get by Miramar, then find its way through an always challenging Florida postseason, talk about whether the school deserves its second title in four years will be on.

The debate about its quarterback? That was settled Friday night.

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