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The Zion Turner Show? What’s Next For St. Thomas Aquinas And More In 5 Takeaways

Photo Credit: Sun Sentinel

Coming off a 2019 campaign that featured a GEICO National Championship, St. Thomas Aquinas did exactly what was expected, defeating Tru Prep Academy 25-13 to claim their first victory of the season.

Tied at 13 entering halftime, an all-around effort did the job for Aquinas, who now prep for next Friday’s contest against Cardinal Gibbons High School.

Here are five takeaways from 305Sports’ Game of the Week:

1.) QB Zion Turner outmatches Saints’ defense, shows the ability to be effective on the ground and through the air.

And to think that he’s just a junior…

Signal-caller Zion Turner did it all for Aquinas Friday night, completing 15 of his 23 passes for 206 yards. He totaled four touchdowns, three passing and one rushing.

Turner, who holds offers from 11 schools, including Miami (FL) and LSU, was almost impossible to stop when momentum was on his side, finding senior receiver Quincy Skinner Jr. for a 27-yard score on their first offensive drive of the game.

Just a couple of plays before, Aquinas forced a fumble, giving Turner and his group great field position to kick things off.

Turner and the offense did suffer from a slight offensive slump early on, in which Tru Prep used to gain a 13-7 lead. Still, with under five minutes to play in the second quarter, halfback Anthony Hankerson used a 31-yard rush to get Aquinas into the red zone.

That allowed for a 1-yard rushing touchdown for Turner, tying the game entering the half. The 2022 prospect continued using his feet to gain yardage, along with converting crucial third-downs to keep the sticks moving.

Turner then found senior wide receiver Maurice Newton on back-to-back possessions, first on a 6-yard connection and then on a 36-yard pass, both resulting in touchdowns.

Turner ultimately finished the game with just one sack and zero interceptions, showing his poise and confidence to lead one of the nation’s best teams to victory.

2.) Dallas Turner and Ja’Den McBurrows lead Aquinas’ defensive group, who remain a sight to see.

Led by Derek Wingo – 62 total tackles, 18.0 sacks – and Colby Dempsey – 30 total tackles, 7 interceptions – Aquinas’ defense wasn’t easy to overcome. With both players graduating, the hands of the defense now seemingly lie on seniors Dallas Turner and Ja’Den McBurrows.

Turner, an Alabama commit, finished the night with four sacks, including one that forced a turnover on downs and iced a victory for Aquinas. The four-star weak-side defensive end undoubtedly proved why he’s the No. 7 ranked player in the Sunshine State, wreaking havoc on the pass rush from start to finish.

As for McBurrows, a Michigan commit, he finished the game with two interceptions, one in the first half and another in the fourth quarter. His first pick was arguably his most important, keeping Tru Prep from scoring on three consecutive drives.

Then, in the final period, McBurrows was at the right spot at the right time to notch interception No. 2 of the night.

As the season continues to progress, don’t be shocked to see this 1-2 punch at it again.

3.) Showing no doubts: Brandon Inniss proves why he’s the top WR in the 2023 class.

Friday night exemplified what a No. 1 receiver should look like.

2023 prospect Brandon Inniss gave STA a run for their money, finishing with seven receptions for 112 yards, adding two total touchdowns. Inniss’ first score came on a 23-yard pass from senior quarterback Nick Vattiato, while the second came in a wildcat run in the red zone.

The 5-foot-11 wideout completed the game with 141 all-purpose yards. Inniss, who holds 27 offers from Division I programs, showed how electric he could be against the reigning GEICO champs.

Just imagine what he’ll be like as a senior.

4.) The ‘unique’ experience is far from over for TPA. It’s just getting started.

While the end result didn’t feature the outcome they expected, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. TPA gave Aquinas a fairly interesting battle, even possessing the lead for a majority of the first half.

Now, four games into the season, this team seems to be getting a feel for each other, and it’s bound to make them fun to watch.

“It’s unique,” offensive lineman Marcus Tate said. “I like it, it’s definitely a new experience. We’ve definitely been more focused, probably one of the more focused years that I’ve been at playing under this coaching staff. That’s really exciting.

“Our team is better, having different kids play with us, it’s exciting.”

They’ll have an opportunity to make things up October 30 against Monsignor Pace (0-2).

5.) The road ahead for St. Thomas Aquinas is as competitive as it gets.

Next up for Aquinas is Cardinal Gibbons (2-0) next Friday at 7:00 p.m. Headlined by wide receiver Troy Stellato, a Clemson commit, the Cheifs won’t be a cake-walk.

Soon after, STA takes on American Heritage, a group that features by UM commit James Williams.

Expect some competitive football underway in the South Florida area.

Michael Yero covers all of South Florida’s major pro teams, along with high school sports for 305 Sports. He also covers sports for Immaculata-La Salle High School’s student newspaper, the Royal Courier.

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