By: David DiPino Contributing Writer
Atlantic Community High School Eagles football players, cheerleaders and the Delray Beach community recently enjoyed a historic run all the way to the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 8A State Championship Game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
While the Eagles came up just 10 points short in a championship game loss to Dr. Phillips, 17-7, the acts of kindness, camaraderie in the community and support is promising for green and white in future years to come.
Lance Tyson keeps everyone connected via the Atlantic Community High School Eagles Football community Facebook page. Tyson has the scoop on the team, information and the ins-and-outs literally better than any beat reporter around from the daily newspapers.
Injury and car accident attorney Lee Cohen of 1-800-CALL-LEE regularly held tailgating tents just past the field and track in the stadium’s south end zone during Atlantic games with all money going to the team. VIP Tickets to those tailgates came with game day food and the tent was enjoyed by former players, their families and community residents.
Ryan Boylston and his Woo Creative team designed football gear for the Atlantic players and their Eagles fans with 100 percent of the proceeds going to further the development of Atlantic High School athletics. Boylston was even able to get one of his friends who own Lazy Moon Pizza in Orlando to donate oversized pizzas for a pre-game meal for the team while they traveled to states. Boylston donned the Atlantic Eagle mascot for the Dec. 1 game state semifinal against Miami High. The fans were pumped and the stands were completely filled as were the sidelines. In addition, his close friends at Studio Baral to donate their time and capture the energy with interviews on video that particular Friday night.
It truly takes a village – as many involved would say who helped make Delray Beach into such a destination as it is today. Over the past several years, Atlantic Eagles football games have been one of the community’s regular destinations. One of the regulars on the Atlantic sidelines is Florida House of Representatives District 88 Rep. Al Jacquet who played defensive line for the Eagles while he was in high school in Delray Beach. Jacquet is vocal in his support of the Atlantic players and coaches.
Bill Bathurst a local realtor and Chuck Halberg a general contractor were both instrumental in getting the Atlantic Eagles football statue refurbished and out of storage. Now the enormous statue has a final home in the northwest portion of the end zone. The move has connected old Atlantic history with the new Eagles faithful. According to Bathurst, “Jeff Kozan, of Vatican tattoo (in Delray Beach), the artist who repainted the statue at Atlantic High School will even do a tattoo of it for you.”
In an act of community unselfishness and in giving back, Brandon Flowers, an Eagles alum (2003), star at Virginia Tech and NFL Pro Bowl cornerback with the Kansas City Chiefs and later the San Diego Chargers chartered busses to the Class 8A State Championship against Dr. Phillips. Thanks to Flowers, 100 Eagles fans met at Pompey Park in Delray Beach on game day and enjoyed a round trip to the State Championship game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando and back to Delray Beach.
Dr. Phillips won their first ever state championship after being a regular in the FHSAA State Playoffs. Since 2013, Dr. Phillips loss four playoff games by a total of nine points before their state championship win. Ouch. Atlantic should bounce back to the state playoffs in no time. Led by a player’s coach, TJ Jackson, who regularly shies away from the limelight in favor of showcasing his players as long as their doing the work in the classroom and on the football field, this team should win a state championship in the next few years.
One thing, Atlantic will be working on in the off -season is on penalties. In the championship game alone, the Eagles were penalized 17 times for a whopping 109 yards. The bright spot was Atlantic defense which held Dr. Phillips offense led by running back to just three points on a 28-yard field goal in the first half. The Eagles gave up blocked punt for a touchdown in the first quarter and then a fourth quarter interception return for a touchdown by Dr. Phillips sealed the game. Another bright spot was quarterback Antoine Williams II scored on a 24-yard fourth quarter touchdown run for the Eagles only score. The closest Atlantic got to scoring any other time was when the Eagles got into the red zone in the third quarter but penalties pushed them back and then failed to complete on a fourth down pass.
This was another historic game in the Eagles state playoff history. In 2015, the Atlantic Eagles were unbeaten (12-0) but they had to travel to Pembroke Pines Flanagan (10-2) for the Class 3A State Semifinal. Atlantic lost the game 35-0. Flanagan went on to win the state title. Atlantic has a history in state championship runs, mostly in the 1970s and early 2000s. In 1973, the Eagles lost to Haines City 7-0, in the state championship game. A well-known fact is that retiring Atlantic Athletic Director Kevin Logan played on that team. Atlantic played for the state championship four times in the 1970s – in 1975, Atlantic lost 14-9 to Ocala-Forest, in 1976, the Eagles lost 11-10 to Panama City- Bay and in the heartbreaking loss of the bunch, Atlantic lost on an 80-yard touchdown run breaking a tie game up and giving the 1978 state championship to Milton. In 2001, Atlantic’s team reached the Class 5A State Semifinals and the 2002 team made it to the Class 5A Regional Finals.
Those 2000 teams included quarterback Omar Jacobs, a star at Bowling Green and player in the National Football League (NFL) for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs, wide receiver David Clowney, a star at Virginia Tech University and played in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills, and Flowers.