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Rickards Reflects On A Breakout Football Season

Rickards High School (2020 football)
Will Brown
Rickards High School players share a hug following a 24-6 loss to Plantation American Heritage in the FHSAA Class 5A state final. The Raiders finished 9-2 and beat all four other Tallahassee public schools for the first time in school history. (Photo by Will Brown)

Michael Townsend's name will forever be etched in the record book.

Rickards' High School's junior quarterback plunged in to score the Raiders' only touchdown during Friday night's 24-6 loss to Plantation American Heritage in the FHSAA Class 5A state championship game.

Rickards falls in Class 5A state final.mp4

"You saw a team that played their hearts out tonight," said Rickards football coach Quintin Lewis.

Rickards had the city of Tallahassee behind them. Among the 3,704 people in attendance at Doak Campbell Stadium were people in St. John Paul II, Florida High, Lincoln and Godby paraphernalia to support the Raiders.

American Heritage used its array of highly touted college prospects to race to a 21-0 halftime lead. Sophomore running back Mark Fletcher ran for a 127 yards and the game's first touchdown. Later, Oronde Gadsden II, whose father caught 22 touchdowns in the NFL, leapt over a Rickards defender for a three-yard touchdown to make it 21-0 with 5:37 left in the second quarter.

Rickards responded by scoring on its first possession of the second half.

The Raiders held American Heritage to three points in the second half, but it wasn't enough to overcome the first-half hole.

American Heritage (11-2) won its fifth state championship in school history. Rickards finished 9-2.

As heartbroken as the Raiders were, the season could be considered a triumph for the program. Rickards entered this season with five playoff wins in the previous 55 years. This year, the Raiders won five playoff games to advance to the state final.

"We pride ourselves on building and developing young men," Lewis said. "We don't go out and get nobody. We take the guys we have and we develop them. I would trade anyone in for anything or any amount of money in the world. Each kid has their own characteristics, their own traits and does their own thing for us. Everyone is blue and gold and bled blue and gold for four straight years. That's a great team, right there. We just played a not great first half."