Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School hosted a victory rally for the state champion Cougar football team before a jubilant crowd in their home stadium in Sarasota on Dec. 19, 2023.
The team earned the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 1S state championship in Tallahassee on Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was 51 years to the day, in 1972, since the last football state championship was won by Cardinal Mooney.
Following a highlight video, the players ran onto the field to the adoring cheers of family, faculty, students, and alumni. Cardinal Mooney Chaplain Father Eric Scanlan offered the opening prayer, followed by remarks from Principal Ben Hopper. A Proclamation was then read by Sarasota City Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, Mooney Class of 1982.
Athletic Director Rafael Fernandez addressed the team, stating how proud he was of the players and how the state title was just the first step in creating a championship legacy at Cardinal Mooney. Fernandez brought five senior stars onto the stage to unveil the new championship banner. The banner will be on permanent display in the school gymnasium.
Head Coach Jared Clark got emotional when talking about the team, their heart, grit and determination, overcoming all challenges to achieve the ultimate goal – a state title. He also spoke about the many who worked behind the scenes, including the athletic trainers, assistant coaches, and their families. Coach Clark stressed that the players were brothers for life, and no matter where life takes them, they will always be Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School state champions.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane offered the closing prayer, saying that the team has shown that they will succeed in sports and now they are encouraged to succeed in life, with the Lord accompanying them along the way.
The rally concluded with a fireworks display, and the players signing team photos for fans.