LEESBURG — Members of the Lee County High School state championship football team thought they had put away their equipment for the last time Tuesday night when they defeated Northside-Warner Robins for the title.
But they willingly will pull it back out and play one more football game this year, this time on an even bigger stage.
Late Thursday afternoon, Lee County learned it would play host to Saint Frances Academy from Maryland in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series on Dec. 22. The game, slated for 7:30 p.m. at Trojan Field, will be nationally televised on ESPNU. It will mark the second time in five seasons that Lee County has played on ESPNU.
“This is as big as it gets,” Lee County coach Dean Fabrizio said. “We’re excited about the challenge. The biggest thing may be re-adjusting our focus, getting off the emotional high from winning the state championship, to re-focusing for another game.”
The Trojans won their second straight state title Tuesday night in the Georgia High School Association Class 6A state championship game, defeating Northside-Warner Robins 14-0 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The victory capped the school’s first unbeaten season at 15-0, and extended their winning streak to a school-record 21 straight.
A news release issued Thursday said the event allows high school football champions from different states to play against each other in post-season bowl games televised on ESPNU. Lee County will host St. Frances in the first game on Dec. 22, then Centennial High School in Peoria, Ariz. will host Eastside Catholic High School from Sammamish, Wash. in the second game at 10:30 p.m.
ESPN play-by-play commentator Jay Alter and analyst Craig Haubert will call the Lee County-St. Frances contest.
“The GEICO State Champions Bowl Series allows ESPN to continue to showcase high school sports on a national stage,” Dan Margulis, ESPN senior director of college and high school sports programming, said in a statement. “This event, created by Paragon Marketing Group, is a great way to highlight the next generation of college student-athletes during our month-long commitment to bowl season.”
Saint Frances is ranked fifth nationally and played in the 2017 GEICO Bowl Series where they hammered Bingham High School in Utah 41-3. The Panthers have six players ranked in the ESPN 300 and Junior 300, including the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect in Shane Lee, who is committed to the University of Alabama.
Previous GEICO State Champions Bowl Series participants include powerhouses St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Florida, Miami Northwestern Senior High School, Chandler High School in Arizona, Bothell High School in Washington and Valdosta High School, who lost to Chandler 44-24 in 2016 after winning the Georgia Class 6A state championship.
Fabrizio said his senior class voted to play in the game, and he knows the community will be excited to support the Trojans one more time.
“They (GEICO State Champions Bowl Series representatives) had reached out to us (before the state championship game), so we knew this was a possibility,” he said. “It’s a great honor to be thought of, and it will be an honor to play in a game like this.”