ThePrepZone.com Sports Report Presented by SunState Federal Credit Union (Oct. 11)

Mike RidaughtIn case you missed it on Wednesday, Oct. 11, Mike Ridaught joined Jeff Cardozo and Zach Alboverdi on “The Tailgate” on WRUF-98.1 FM & 850 AM at 4 p.m. Here are the things they discussed on ThePrepZone.com Sports Report Presented by SunState Federal Credit Union:

  • Big week of district games. Only four more weeks left in the regular season. Tonight, Belleview plays at Eastside.  If Eastside wins they are district champs

Eastside is attempting to go from worst to first. Last year, the Rams only won one game. Two years ago in Jeff Parker’s final season as head coach, the Rams had just one win, even though they made it to the state playoffs since they are only in a three-team district. Although the FHSAA has a new playoff format, for Classes 5A-8A, the district champion still earns a postseason bid. Eastside coach Cedderick Daniels has done a good job turning things around in just his second season. As I noted, only two wins combined the last two years, and after an 0-3 start this season, the Rams (3-3) have won three in a row, including a 14-12 win at North Marion two weeks ago. That was a Class 5A-District 6 game. So, that means that if Eastside beats Belleview tomorrow night, they are going to the state playoffs. If they lose, based on the new points system and no runner-up spots assured a berth, it’s unlikely they can get in unless they win out. Belleview made the playoffs last year for the first time in 10 years, but that was under coach John Brantley, who is no longer there. Mike Kelly, in his first year, has the Rattlers at 4-2. They were kind of the opposite of Eastside in that they started the season 3-0 but have gone 1-2 since. Those two losses were to Dunnellon, which is ranked 5th in the state in Class 4A, and Buchholz, which is a 7A school. Last week in a 48-27 win against Williston, the Rattlers finished with 611 yards of total offense. That was the most in a game for Belleview in 20 years (according to Richard Burton of the Ocala Star-Banner). A total of 436 of those yards were on the ground. This game will actually be played on Eastside’s campus since Buchholz will be at Citizen’s Field tomorrow night against Creekside (St. Johns) and Gainesville hosts Vanguard (Ocala) on Friday. The big question for Eastside, in my opinion, will be whether or not Anthony Richardson is able to play. He’s a play-maker at the quarterback position but he’s been injured and I’m not sure the Rams can win without him, although they did at North Marion, so we’ll see. But nonetheless, big game tomorrow night at Eastside.

  • Dixie County is at Newberry on Friday.  The unbeaten Bears are on the road against the Panthers, who are coming off a big win last week at TrentonSunstate Logo

This became an even bigger game when Newberry won at Trenton last Friday. Jeff, this was a one-score game with 9:39 to play in the game. Newberry led 24-17, and the Panthers ended up winning the game, 51-17. Of Newberry’s seven touchdowns, only one went for less than 30 yards and that was a 27-yard scoring run by Tresell Curtis, who finished with over 200 yards rushing and four TD’s. I think Trenton will be OK in Class 4A. That was just their second loss of the season. I think they’ve got a chance to win out and make the playoffs. But for Newberry, they entered the game with a 2-3 record and the win propelled them into the top four in their region. Remember, for Classes 1A-4A, there are no more districts so you have to finish in the top four of your region to get into the state playoffs. But that win against Trenton gave them enough points to put them third in Class 3A-Region 1. Now the question will be, can they carry that momentum over and beat a Dixie County team that has to be considered one of the surprises in the area. I’d say Dixie County and unbeaten St. Francis Catholic have got to be the biggest stories or surprises so far in 2017. The Bears have a first-year coach in Eric Richeson and are currently 7-0 on the season. They have double-digit wins against Trenton and at Union County, but this may be their toughest test of the season, assuming the Panthers come ready to play, which I think they will. Dixie County has almost 2,000 yards rushing in just seven games. That’s an average of 280 per game. Duke Dawson’s cousin, Aaron Dawson, is averaging 11.8 yards per carry, but that’s only good enough for second on the team. James Smith is averaging 12.4 yards per carry, so the Panthers will have to find a way to slow down that rushing attack. Dixie County, a 10-point favorite according to Joe Pinkos, has been pretty good defensively too, giving up an average of just nine points a game and they have 18 sacks on the year. That will definitely be a line of scrimmage game.

  • Vanguard (Ocala) at Gainesville will be a battle for first-place in the district and could possibly be for the district title.

It’s very possible. Vanguard is unbeaten, and ranked 5th in the state in the Class 6A. They are 5-0 overall and 2-0 in 6A-District 5. GHS is 1-0 in the district, and Lake Weir (Ocala), who Gainesville hosts on Monday night, Oct. 30, is also 1-0 in the district. Vanguard still has Lake Weir at home and Forest (Ocala) on the road. Gainesville has to go to Leesburg next week, but I think the game at Citizen’s Field on Friday night decides the district champion.  The Knights have four shutouts in five games and they may be even better than last year’s team which had N’Kosi Perry at quarterback. Perry is now at the University of Miami, but the Knights haven’t missed a beat with Marquez Glover at quarterback. Glover has completed 67% of his passes for 952 yards with 15 TDs and only 2 INT. That’s the kind of ratio Perry had last year. Plus, the Knights are averaging eight yards per carry, and I mentioned the defense. The only team to score on them so far was Buchholz. Vanguard has 29 sacks and 7 interceptions. The Knights are averaging 43 points per game and giving up less than seven. Last year in Ocala, Vanguard won this game, 56-7.

But I believe this is a better Gainesville football team this year. GHS missed out on the playoffs last year for the first time since 2008. They opened the season with a loss at Class 7A Columbia (Lake City) but have won four in a row, including a come-from-behind win against rival Buchholz last week in which they trailed 14-3 and rallied for a 31-21 win. They’ve got good balance in the backfield with Willie McKnight leading the way with five TDs and a 4.7 yards per carry average. Junior Luke Matthews continues to get better throwing the ball. He’s got 10 TDs and only three interceptions. His go to guy, junior Jalen Kelsey, is averaging 122 yards receiving per game with 4 TDs, plus a tall receiver in Christian Miller-Cardwell, who at 6’4, 200, is a big target. It’s a tough match-up for Gainesville, but they are playing this game at Citizen’s Field, and GHS typically plays pretty well there.