TAMPA — Chamberlain has long known its path to a Class 5A championship would likely have to go through Lakeland.
And now the Chiefs have their date with the Dreadnaughts.
Chamberlain used 21 unanswered third-quarter points Friday night to break open a close game at the half en route to a 42-21 win over Wharton in the Class 5A region semifinals.
Senior quarterback Dontae Aycock accounted for three of his four total touchdowns — three passing, one rushing — in the third quarter. He connected twice with wide receiver Anthony Williams for touchdowns of 36 and 32 yards.
The win earned a trip to Lakeland, which defeated Kissimmee Osceola 20-16, in next Friday's region final. When the final score of the Lakeland game was announced at John Adcock Stadium, Chiefs players began looking at each other on the sideline and knowingly nodding.
"The coaches have been stressing to us that we need to improve ourselves to make ourselves better to get ready for Lakeland," said Williams, whose 36-yard touchdown pass with 20.9 seconds remaining in the first half gave Chamberlain the lead for good. "We weren't undermining Wharton. We were getting ready for them, but at the same time we were thinking about Lakeland, too."
Despite three first-half turnovers, Wharton (9-3) — which earned an emotional win last week in its first game since the death of defensive coordinator Earl Goodman — played the Chiefs to a 14-14 tie heading into the final minute of the first half. Despite throwing three interceptions in the game, Wildcats senior quarterback Andrew Clifford threw for 333 yards and a pair of touchdown passes to senior Jairus Jones.
"I think it was a big success for us," said Jones, who had six receptions for 149 yards. "We overcame adversity in the beginning. We overcame adversity with the death of a coach. We won last week.
"I guess the emotion ran out."
Chiefs running back Kenny Allen carried the load in Chamberlain's triple-option offense, rushing for 110 of his game-high 132 yards in the first half. The Chiefs tallied 364 yards total offense, including 132 passing yards from Aycock.
And now the Chiefs (11-1) can look forward to the undefeated Dreadnaughts (12-0).
"We want to play the best team to let everybody know we're the best team," Allen said.