FHSAA Football Class 4A State Championship Game Preview

Marty PallmanBy Marty Pallman
Twitter – @mpallman

Thursday, December 8, 7 p.m. at Camping World Stadium, Orlando

4A championship:  #2 Bolles (Jacksonville) (12-0) vs. #1 Cocoa (11-1)

Head Coaches: Bolles: Corky Rogers – 27th season at Bolles, (324-45), 44th season overall (465-84) (10 State Championships)

Cocoa: John Wilkinson – 12th season at Cocoa (128-25), 15th season overall (143-40) (3 State Championships)

State titles: Bolles: 11 (most in state) – 1986, 90, 93, 95, 98, 02, 04, 06, 08, 09, 11
Cocoa: 3 – 2008, 09, 10

Road to Orlando:

Bolles: d. East Gadsden (Havana) 40-0 (regional semifinal); d. Raines (Jacksonville) 60-20 (regional final); d. South Sumter (Bushnell) 31-26 (state semifinal)

Cocoa: d. Bishop Verot (Fort Myers) 64-0 (regional semifinal); d. Jones (Orlando) 36-30 (regional final); d. Booker T. Washington (Miami) 24-21 (state semifinal).

bolles-bulldogsThe skinny: This may be the best state championship game of the week between two of the best programs all-time in Florida high school football. Bolles leads state with 11 state titles, with Rogers winning ten of those, but last state title in 2011 is a lengthy drought for Bulldogs’ program. Booker T. Washington beat Bolles for 2012, 13, and 14 state championships before knocking off Raines a year ago at Camping World Stadium to tie state record with fourth straight 4A championship. Cocoa kept Booker T. from a shot at breaking that state record with a 24-21 win in the state semifinals two weeks ago.

Bolles missed the state title game for the first time since 2010 a year ago, being eliminated by Raines in the regional final round. The Bulldogs got their revenge with a 60-20 romp over the district rival Vikings in this years region final, then had to hold off late South Sumter comeback after leading 31-7 in state semifinal thriller.

The Bolles offense scored 603 points in 2016 and is led by Alabama commit senior quarterback Mac Jones, who has thrown for 1,471 yards and 22 TD’s with only three interceptions to lead balanced attack. Senior running back Jaylen McCloud leads Bulldogs on ground with 1,402 yards and 17 TD’s and an average of over 8 yards a carry. Seniors E.J. Porter and Amari Terry have combined for over 1,100 yards and 22 TD’s rusing as well for Bolles. Terry is Bolles leading receiver, with a 20 yards average on 37 receptions and nine more scores, and also added a 93 yard punt return for another score in the state semifinal win over South Sumter. Senior safety Ahman Ross leads a Bolles defense that has allowed only 167 points all season. Ross led the Bulldogs defense with three sacks in the win over South Sumter.

This is Bolles 17th state title game appearance and they are 11-5 all time. Bolles beat Booker T. Washington for their last state championship game in 2011, but they have dropped the state title game the next three years to Booker T.

Bolles had been the last team to beat Booker T. Washington in the 4A playoffs until Cocoa turned the trick in their 4A state semifinal two weeks ago. Cocoa was on the verge of tying the state record of four straight championships before Washington knocked them off in the 2011 4A state semifinal round. Cocoa’s last title game appearance was their third consecutive championship in 2010.

Cocoa TigersThe Tigers offense is led by senior quarterback and USF commit Bruce Judson, who has thrown for over 1,000 yards with 16 TD’ s and only 2 interceptions and rushed for another 681 yards and 8 more scores. Junior Javian Hawkins has over 1,100 yards total offense with 15 combined touchdowns, with LaSedrick King running for 863 yards and 11 TD’s. Cocoa was extremely balanced defensively, with linemen John Smith and Joaquan Lennear with 58 tackles apiece and another lineman Clinton Bartley with 56 stops, and linebacker Zach Beagle adding 55 tackles and another linebacker Howard Stewart with 51 tackles and leading the Tigers with 7 sacks. Cocoa has outscored their opponents 461-184.

Prediction: Again, this could be the best game of the week in Orlando as these two teams have combined for 14 state championships, but this is the first meeting between them in a state championship game. Bolles offense has been outstanding all season, and their defense has also come around as the season has gone on. Bolles offense is a bit more explosive than Cocoa because of Jones, and he will be tough for the Tigers defense to slow down. Cocoa got over a major hump by finally beating Booker T. Washington, but this may be an even bigger hump with the most successful school and coach in Florida high school history. Five years is a long time between state titles for the Bulldogs, and Cocoa, while a very good team, seems like a better matchup for Bolles. Many people have always told me to not pick against Corky Rogers, so I won’t…Bolles 31, Cocoa 27.

Joe Pinkos prediction