Posted: 11:07 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29, 2013

Dwyer outlasts St. Thomas Aquinas for regional championship

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Dwyer outlasts St. Thomas Aquinas for regional championship photo
Dwyer’s Johnnie Disxon (r) is congratulated by teammate Era Saffold after scoring a touchdown on a long pass play during the first half of a regional final football game between St. Thomas Aquinas and Dwyer on Friday night. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

By Anthony Chiang

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

The last time Dwyer and Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas faced each other in the regional finals, the teams combined to score nine points.

This time, the offenses stole the show. But with the help of a strong performance from quarterback Daniel Parr, Dwyer was able to outlast St. Thomas Aquinas for a 35-28 victory over the defending state champions in the Class 7A regional finals on Friday.

After claiming its fifth regional title in the past six years, the Panthers will travel to face Tarpon Springs-East Lake in the state semifinals next week, with a trip to the state championship game on the line.

Parr didn’t just throw for 349 yards and two touchdowns, he also broke a 28-28 tie with a game-winning one-yard rushing touchdown with 40.5 seconds left in the contest Friday.

“That was the best feeling of my life,” Parr said of the game-winning score. “I’ve never played in a game like this. That feeling was just amazing.”

Despite losing playmakers Shawann Lurry and Clint Stephens because of lower leg injuries during the contest, Dwyer was able to put up points on a Raiders defense that entered the game allowing just eight points per contest with the help of big games from senior wide receivers Johnnie Dixon and Ezra Saffold.

Dixon caught both of Parr’s touchdown passes on his way to recording 123 receiving yards. Senior Ezra Saffold also helped out with 10 catches for 151 yards.

“They were absolutely huge,” Parr said of the duo. “Last week, our running game really controlled the game. But if these guys don’t come out and play the way they did, I don’t think we would have won.”

The teams traded punches throughout the game.

Dwyer (13-0) scored first, as Parr found Dixon streaking down the field for a 43-yard touchdown pass.

But the Raiders answered on an 8-yard touchdown catch from junior Jawuan Harris to tie the game at seven in the first quarter. Natrone Barnes intercepted a pass from Parr, returning it to Dwyer’s 10-yard line to set up the score.

The back-and-forth first half continued when fullback Gerald Hearns forced his way into the endzone for a 2-yard rushing touchdown to give Dwyer a 14-7 advantage.

St. Thomas Aquinas (10-3) tied it again on a 20-yard touchdown catch from running back Mardre London, a Michigan State verbal commit. However, the Panthers entered halftime with a six-point lead with the help of two field goals from senior Peyton Shapiro, including one from 40 yards away.

With the win, Dwyer is now two victories away from its first state title since 2009.

“I’m ready to go take this thing, ” Parr said. “We’ve been waiting on a ring for three years, so now it’s time to get it.”

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