Chamberlain coach Billy Turner always knew that in order to win a Class 5A state championship, his team would have to go through Lakeland.
His players knew it, too. All season, the Chiefs have been contemplating meeting the Lakeland Dreadnaughts in the postseason.
Well, the time has come.
Chamberlain advanced to the Class 5A-Region 2 final with a 42-21 win against Wharton. The Chiefs (11-1) will travel to Lakeland on Friday to face the 5A state champion from 2004 to 2006.
Lakeland defeated Kissimmee Osceola 20-16.
"We know Lakeland is not a pushover team," said Chamberlain senior quarterback Dontae Aycock, who led the Chiefs with three touchdown passes and one rushing score. "We just have to keep executing in practice and we know they will probably be the best team that we've played so far."
The Chiefs went into the half leading 21-14, but scored 21 points in the third quarter to take the commanding lead. Aycock scored on a 27-yard run, plus connected with senior receiver Anthony Williams and running back Lamond Scott on touchdown passes.
"We knew we were getting the ball back at halftime and we knew we made some mistakes in the first half, so we just had to correct them and that's what we did," Aycock said.
"They kind of got on us defensively a little bit, but around the second quarter and the end of the first quarter, we pulled it together and shut them down," Chamberlain receiver Anthony Williams said. "The team played good as a whole, so I'm just thankful we can advance to the third round."
Aycock finished the game with 133 passing yards and 70 yards on the ground. Williams caught four passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
Chamberlain fumbled three times, including twice at the goal line. Its defense made up for the offense's mistakes, however, with three interceptions and a sack.
When they heard the score of the Lakeland-Osceola game announced in the third quarter, Chamberlain players said they were excited to face the Dreadnaughts in the next round, despite the fact Osceola defeated them in the region final last year, 14-7.
"We wanted to play the best," said Chamberlain senior running back Kenny Allen, who finished the game with 144 rushing yards and two touchdowns. "Whoever won, we would play the best team and then let everyone know we're the best team."
Wharton ended the season 9-3. It was an emotional postseason for the Wildcats, who lost a member of the program Nov. 8 when defensive coordinator Earl Goodman passed away.
Andrew Clifford led Wharton with 331 passing yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another in the fourth quarter. Senior Jairus Jones had 112 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
"I think this season was a big success for us," Jones said. "We overcame adversity in the beginning of the year, overcame adversity with the death of a coach, and we won last week but I guess our emotion ran out."