By Mike Ridaught
Twitter – @ridaught
Friday, October 2
We’ve made it to the half way point of the high school football season. Now that we’re in the month of October, games will have a lot more significance. Some teams have played up in classification to help them get ready for competition in their district. Others have played down in classification in an effort to build a little momentum. If a team wins the district title or finishes as the runner-up, they are playoff bound. In fact, that’s the only way they can get in. So whether your team is having a good season, a great season or a bad season, it’s all in the past. These games in October will determine who is going to the state playoffs.
Getting off to a winless start doesn’t mean you have to hit the panic button just yet for some teams, even if it’s at the midway point of the season. It all comes down to district play. That determines your playoff fate. Here are a few teams who started slowly but still have a chance to get to the postseason.
Madison County (2-3) – Last year’s 4A state semifinalists started the year 0-3 with losses at 5A #7 Rickards (Tallahassee) and Brooks County (GA), followed by a home loss to 5A #6 Wakulla (Crawfordville). The Cowboys got their first win against 3A FSU High (Tallahassee), which was previously unbeaten, and they won their next game against Bell, 61-0, in the district opener. They host Jefferson County (Monticello) (3-1, 1-0) on Friday night for what should be for the 1A-District 5 championship. Either way, despite being shutout in back-to-back weeks and winless going into mid-September, don’t count Madison County (2-3, 1-0) out of the Class 1A race just yet.
Ed White (Jacksonville) (1-4) – The Commanders lost the first four games of the season, including their first district game against Nease (Ponte Vedra). Each 6A-District 4 game, including their district game tonight at Middleburg, becomes a must-win situation. A 49-6 non-district win at Andrew Jackson (Jacksonville) last week might have given the Commanders the shot of confidence they needed to right the ship in district play. However, it’s a competitive district which includes St. Augustine and Englewood (Jacksonville) (4-1, 1-0).
First Coast (Jacksonville) (1-3) – The Bucs were 48-1 during the regular season from 2010-2014, but First Coast got off to an 0-2 start in 2015. Despite a 1-3 record, they are a contender in 7A-District 2, which also includes Fletcher (Neptune Beach), who they play on Friday, Lee (Jacksonville) and front runners Columbia (Lake City) and Atlantic Coast (Jacksonville). First Coast coach Marty Lee noted that Apopka, last year’s 8A state champion, went 6-4 during the regular season but won a state championship. The district games are the most important.
Creekside (St. Johns) (0-5) – The Knights hung with 8A Mandarin (Jacksonville) last week and they open district play tonight at Bartram Trail (St. Johns). Last year, Creekside upset B.T., 37-24, and went to the playoffs with a 3-7 record. Buchholz (Gainesville) and Bartram Trail are on top of the 7A-District 3 standings but a win against the Bears would be a great start for the Knights, who will get their next two district games at home (Fleming Island & Oakleaf).
Eastside (Gainesville) (0-4) – The Rams could win only one game all season and make the state playoffs. That’s right, if Eastside beats winless Belleview in two weeks, but loses the rest of their games, then the 1-9 Rams would be headed to the postseason. That’s what happens when you have a three team district. Unbeaten North Marion is the favorite in District 6-5A, but the winner of the Eastside-Belleview game on Friday, October 16, will be your district runner-up.
Trinity Catholic (Ocala) (1-5) – Trinity Catholic has played a very tough schedule to get ready for this stretch run. The Celtics took on all comers this year. They faced two-time defending 3A state champion Trinity Christian (Jacksonville), and played at 5A #5 Jesuit (Tampa) and 4A #4 South Sumter (Bushnell), and they lost at home to 5A #6 Wakulla (Crawfordville). They travel to 3A #3 Clearwater Central Catholic next week and play at defending 5A state runner-up Godby (Tallahassee) on October 23.
The Celtics actually picked up their first win of the season last night against The First Academy (Orlando), 32-7. The Celtics started the year 0-3 for the first time in school history, coming close to their first win in overtime against 6A Lake Weir (Ocala). However, last night’s win over TFA, their first victory of the season, came in a Class 3A-District 3 game. It was the Celtics’ 27th straight district victory.
The Celtics could easily be a district champion and finish with a 3-7 record or get in as a runner-up with just two victories on the season. If they beat Father Lopez (Daytona Beach) at home on October 16, then their game at Trinity Prep (Winter Park) on Friday, October 30, would be for the district title.
With six weeks left in the regular season there are a number of teams in the area that are still unbeaten. Duval County leads the way with the most undefeated teams with six: Jacksonville schools Bolles (5-0), Christ’s Church (5-0), Mandarin (5-0), Raines (5-0), Sandalwood (5-0) & Trinity Christian (4-0).
Here’s a list of other unbeaten teams in the area by county:
Citrus – Seven Rivers Christian (Lecanto) (5-0)
Flagler – Matanzas (Palm Coast) (5-0)
Gilchrist – Trenton (4-0)
Hernando – Nature Coast (Brooksville) (5-0)
Lake – Lake Minneola (4-0)
Marion – Dunnellon (5-0), North Marion (Citra) (5-0)
Nassau – West Nassau (Callahan) (4-0)
St. Johns – St. Augustine (5-0), St. Joseph (St. Augustine) (5-0)
Sumter – South Sumter (Bushnell) (5-0)
Union – Union County (Lake Butler) (5-0)
Volusia – Mainland (Daytona Beach) (5-0)
The month of October is going to rock. There are some great high school football match-ups. Here is my top 10 list of games for the area:
South Sumter (Bushnell) at Bishop Moore (Orlando) – Both teams are unbeaten. The visiting Raiders, ranked 4th in Class 4A, have the state’s longest regular season winning streak. The Hornets are currently ranked 3rd in Class 5A.
Columbia (Lake City) at Bolles (Jacksonville) – The Tigers (7A) and ‘Dogs (4A) are both state-ranked and playoff contenders in their respective classifications. They’re also both ranked in the top 10 of the Prep Zone Power Poll.
Buchholz (Gainesville) at Gainesville – Rematch of last year’s city championship won by Buchholz on the final play of the game which snapped a 5-year losing streak to their rival.
Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) at Godby (Tallahassee) – Godby is the defending 5A state runners-up. The visiting Conquerors are the two-time defending 3A state champs and ranked No. 1 in their class.
Vanguard (Ocala) at Gainesville – Rematch of last year’s 6A-District 5 champion and runner-up and possible district championship game
Mandarin (Jacksonville) at Sandalwood (Jacksonville) – Both teams are currently unbeaten. The Mustangs and Saints could both be ranked top 10 in the state in Class 8A by kickoff. The winner of this game will likely win the District 1-8A title, while the loser will get in as the runner-up
Matanzas (Palm Coast) at Mainland (Daytona Beach) – The Bucs are nationally-ranked, ranked No. 1 in Class 6A, and they are the top-ranked team in the Prep Zone Power Poll. But the Pirates could be 6-0 heading into the game and they are receiving votes in the 6A state poll. This is a big game in District 13-6A for both teams.
Dunnellon at South Sumter (Bushnell) – This could be a match-up of top five teams in Class 4A. The visiting Tigers are unbeaten and ranked for the first time in 10 years (5th). The Raiders have won 38 straight regular season games and are currently ranked 4th in the state.
Bolles (Jacksonville) at Raines (Jacksonville) – This is a potential 1 vs. 2 match-up in Class 4A. The top-ranked ‘Dogs have a 102-3 district record since 1992. However, all three of their losses came to No. 2 Raines (2011, 2013 & 2014).
First Coast (Jacksonville) at Columbia (Lake City) – This could be for the 7A-District 2 championship
First Coast (Jacksonville) at Raines (Jacksonville) – Oct. 9
University Christian (Jacksonville) at Dixie County (Cross City) – Oct. 30
Catch my high school football previews every Wednesday at 4:15 p.m. on WRUF-AM 850 & FM-95.3 Gainesville on The Tailgate with hosts Jeff Cardozo and Adam Schick, as well as every Friday at 7:45 a.m. on “The Big Boy Radio Show” with Adam Reardon and at 4:20 p.m. on Sports Time with Steve Woodard, Scot Brantley and Mark McLeod on Florida Sports Talk powered by NBC Sports (AM-1230 Gainesville, AM-900 Ocala & FM-100.1 Ocala).