TAMPA -- Rain might have forced the Class 3A state champion Jefferson football team indoors for Friday morning's Tampa City Hall celebration, but a brief part in the clouds still allowed the Dragons watch as a banner was hung on the side of the city building congratulating the team on its first state championship.
Jefferson athletic director Bob Morgan rode in a fire engine ladder cart as a blue and gold banner signed by the entire team was hung four stories high. Dragons players, dressed in blue state champions T-shirts, received city proclamations from Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio.
The Dragons capped an undefeated 15-0 season last month with a 44-34 win over Miami Norland in the Class 3A title game at the Cirtus Bowl in Orlando.
"We looked at this season as a journey, and Orlando was our last stop," Jefferson coach Mike Fenton said. "At the beginning of the year, our dreams, our goals, our visions, they were just that. But now they're reality. We're state champions."
For a core of seniors that began that vision as young sophomores, it was finally a chance to celebrate.
"It's a great experience for us," said senior receiver Andre Davis, who committed to USF over the weekend. "Once we did it, I know all this was coming. A bunch of stuff was coming, but it's great."
Junior defensive end Tyriq McCord said the event will keep returning players hungry to make their own marks.
"Everyone wants to be the next Quentin Williams or next Andre Davis, but you see this and they they don't want to be exactly like them. They want to be better," McCord said. "Like you've got (receiver) Adrian Jenkins. He doesn't want to be the next Andre Davis. He wants to be the next Adrian Jenkins. Everyone want to step up and keep this going."
-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @EddieHometeam)