ThePrepZone.com Sports Report Presented by SunState Federal Credit Union (Feb. 8)

Mike RidaughtIn case you missed it on Thursday, Feb. 8, Mike Ridaught joined Zach Alboverdi & Pat Dooley on “The Tailgate” on WRUF-98.1 FM & 850 AM at 4:05 p.m to talk high school sports.  Here are the things they discussed on ThePrepZone.com Sports Report Presented by SunState Federal Credit Union:

National Signing Day – it wasn’t just a big day for the Gators. Several area players inked deals, including a few D-I signees

The area was down a bit as far as star players, but it was still an opportunity for a lot of these kids to sign with colleges and get an opportunity to play at the next level, so whether it be at a major D-I school, or a DIII school, or a JUCO, it was a big day for the locals. We’ll start with the top 300 players in Florida because if you can make the top 300, at least according to 247 Sports, you’re a 3-star player. So based on that, the highest ranked player in the area is Charles Strong of Union County. He just cracked the top 100 list in Florida and he had some good choices like Florida, FSU, Ole Miss and Alabama, but he chose to sign with Texas A&M. He was an FSU commit before Jimbo Fisher left, then de-committed from FSU after Fisher left. However, when Fisher got to A&M, he called Strong and told him he needed him so Strong signed with A&M yesterday. The next highest rated guy is Doug Johnson of Fort White. He signed with FAU and will play offensive left tackle for Lane Kiffin. He was a 4-year starter at Columbia and Fort White and he didn’t allow a sack in his two years at Fort White. He’s 6-5, 320, and has a chance to be a good player for the Owls. Defensive lineman Ike Walker of St. Francis Catholic signed with UCF. He also considered Kentucky and Auburn. He’s another guy, at 6-foot-4, 345 pounds, who has a chance to play early. Those three guys were the top guys who signed yesterday, but Buchholz had three sign to play at the next level, Eastside had a couple, with more expected to sign later; I mentioned St. Francis Catholic – they had two. In addition to Ike Walker, Damari Turner is going the JUCO route in hopes he can earn a D-I scholarship. Williston had a player sign with Bethune-Cookman. Newberry had a couple of guys sign. Gainesville had a couple of guys sign. So all in all, it was a big day around the area.

Girls basketball district tournaments are concluding today, tomorrow and Saturday. How many area teams have punched their ticket to the state playoffs?Sunstate Logo

A total of five Alachua County teams are in – Gainesville, Eastside, P.K. Yonge, Newberry and Hawthorne. Buchholz will play in the district semifinals tonight in 8A-District 4 as the 4-seed against top-seeded Fleming Island (Orange Park). If they win, they’re in. If they lose, the season is over. Same situation for St. Francis Catholic tomorrow in 3A-District 2 against St. Johns Country Day (Orange Park) in their district semifinal. Also, Trenton has potential final four team. They are playing Bronson tonight in the 1A-District 7 semifinals, which they should win. But coaches will tell you that they have restless nights the night before a district semifinal because it’s a must-win game. The top two teams from each district make the state playoffs so you have to reach your district championship game in order to clinch a state playoff spot. Now, you can lose the district championship game, even though you would still like to win it and be called district champions. Plus, you get to a host a first-round playoff game as district champion, while the district runner-up has to travel. But the pressure is off somewhat after you get that district semifinal win. GHS will play Ocala Forest for the 7A-District 4 title tomorrow night, Eastside will play Belleview for the 6A-District 6 title in a rematch of last year’s district championship game. The Lady Rams had a 16-point lead and lost the game by one so they’ve been waiting a year on a chance for revenge. Newberry will play at Bradford (Starke) for the 5A-District 4 title. There’s a good example right there of the madness. Bradford is a .500 ballclub and they beat a 19-4 Interlachen team to advance. P.K. Yonge just lost another player to injury but they are playing in Tallahassee against Maclay for the 4A-District 1 title, so they’re in. So again, you’ve got no less than a half dozen area teams who will be in the state playoffs, which starts next Thursday.

Tomorrow night, it’s Gainesville & Eastside part 2 in boys’ basketball. Eastside has a chance to claim the mythical city title

It’s been a great season so far for Pop Williams and the Rams. They kind of grinded out a defensive win at Buchholz on Tuesday night. Trent Whittemore got hurt in the fourth quarter for Buchholz, which had a double-digit lead against the Rams in the 3rd. Anthony Richardson helped bring Eastside back with some big 3s. He finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Eastside won the game, 39-35, for their 8th straight win. Last Friday night, they beat Dunnellon to earn a 1st-place tie in their district, finishing 7-1 in 6A-District 6. Unfortunately, they lost the coin toss and will be the No. 2 seed in next week’s district tournament. They are 20-4 overall and having a really nice season. They’ve beaten all the city teams this year – Buchholz twice, St. Francis Catholic twice, P.K. Yonge, and they upset Gainesville by 20 in the first meeting. Now, Gainesville is 19-5 so you might ask yourself why would that be considered an upset. Well, at the time, Eastside was without two offensive starters. Anthony Wright, who is lost for the season with an ACL, and James Pope, who actually has returned since from his injury. But that night, Eastside came out on fire. They led 22-10 at the end of the first quarter. Senior Jimmy Johnson finished with 18 points, including four 3-pointers, senior Noah Richardson had 16, 10 from the free throw line, and sophomore Anthony Richardson had 14 as Eastside snapped a 6-game losing streak to GHS. It will take another big effort to beat the Hurricanes. GHS has won nine of its last 10 and hasn’t loss since that game, winning five in a row. Gainesville is the No. 1 seed in next week’s 7A-District 4 tournament. They are ranked 3rd in the state in Class 7A, according to MaxPreps. Eastside is ranked 6th in the state in Class 6A. The rivalry is back on after GHS had pretty much dominated it the past five years, and I expect a 4th-quarter game tomorrow night at 7:30, and a packed house at Santa Fe College. We’ll have audio and video coverage of this one.

For the latest in high school sports in Gainesville, check out our daily reports on 106.9 FM every weekday around 7:50 a.m.  Here is a link to the archives.