Gainesville – The Trinity Christian Conquerors of Jacksonville will begin the 2014 high school football season the way they ended the 2013 year – on top of the preseason Prep Zone Power Poll.
The Conquerors, defending Class 3A state champions, were a unanimous selection and received all 10 first-place votes. Despite a daunting schedule that includes IMG Academy (Bradenton) on the road and home games against defending 2A state champion Champagnat Catholic (Hialeah), 5A Godby (Tallahassee) and 6A Vanguard (Ocala), along with the season opening loss to 4A Georgia power Buford, 17-0, this may be one of the best assembled teams in First Coast history.
Trinity Christian is nationally-ranked, including the No. 1 team in the country in the MaxPreps’ small school rankings. Finding a quarterback will be the key, but they are loaded with talent, as 30% of the roster has scholarship offers. Last year, they outscored six 3A opponents, 253-56, in delivering head coach Verlon Dorminey his second state title.
After a run to the 6A state semifinals last year, Mainland (Daytona Beach) is poised for another run. The Bucs, who have made 20 consecutive postseason appearances, are ranked second in the poll.
Mainland is ranked third in the Associated Press Class 6A state poll and will also be battle tested come playoff time. The Bucs travel to 5A No. 4 Lake Wales and host 5A No. 1 American Heritage (Plantation) in September, and they close out the season at 8A No. 7 Fort Pierce Central.
Led by all-state quarterback and FSU commit De’Andre Johnson and a trio of FBS wide receivers, First Coast (Jacksonville) is loaded offensively and has talent on both sides of the ball. Ranked No. 4 in the AP’s Class 8A rankings, the Bucs, who have the talent to make another run like they did in 2011 when they reached the 7A state title game, is ranked third in the preseason poll.
Following back-to-back undefeated regular seasons, the South Sumter (Bushnell) Raiders turn their attention to running the table in the postseason. They return 45 lettermen, seven offensive starters and eight offensive starters from last year’s 12-1 team and begin the season ranked No. 4.
Never count out a Corky Rogers coached football team. That’s why Bolles (Jacksonville) is ranked No. 5 in the poll.
The Bulldogs advanced to the 4A state title game last year and held its own against the Booker T. Washington (Miami), the No. 1 team in the country, before falling, 40-21. Bolles returns several key players on offense, including Dexter Carter, Jr., who rushed for 1,726 yards and 33 TDs. Like Trinity Christian and Mainland, the ‘Dogs play a brutal schedule – a perfect primer for another run in the postseason.
Columbia (Lake City) returns all-state running back Lonnie Underwood, who rushed for 1,433 yards and a school-record 36 TDs. The Tigers are ranked No. 6 in the preseason Prep Zone Power Poll and No. 7 in the AP 6A state rankings heading into the regular season.
Seventh-ranked Fletcher (Neptune Beach), which returns 16 starters from last year’s 10-win team, defending 5A state runners-up Clay (Green Cove Springs), defending 1A state champion Trenton and 4A Raines (Jacksonville) round out the top 10.
The Prep Zone Power Poll ranks the top 20 high school football, basketball, baseball & softball teams (regardless of FHSAA classification) across 26 counties in North Florida (Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Madison, Marion, Nassau, Putnam, Sumter, St. Johns, Suwannee, Taylor, Union & Volusia counties). It is voted on weekly by sportswriters and sportscasters.
Prep Zone Power Poll – 2014 Football Poll #1 – PRESEASON POLL
(School, followed by first-place votes, classification, 2013 final record and total voting points)
1. Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) (10) (3A) (12-1) – 200
2. Mainland (Daytona Beach) (6A) (12-2) – 184
3. First Coast (Jacksonville) (8A) (11-2) – 181
4. South Sumter (Bushnell) (5A) (12-1) – 162
5. Bolles (Jacksonville) (4A) (10-4) – 157
6. Columbia (Lake City) (6A) (10-2) – 139
7. Fletcher (Neptune Beach) (7A) (10-3) – 134
8. Clay (Green Cove Springs) (5A) (10-5) – 116
9. Trenton (1A) (12-1) – 111
10. Raines (Jacksonville) (4A) (9-3) – 92
11. Fleming Island (Orange Park) (7A) (10-1) – 89
12. North Marion (Citra) (5A) (9-3) – 78
13T Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) (5A) (10-1) – 69
13T Trinity Catholic (Ocala) (3A) (8-4) – 69
15. Bartram Trail (St. Johns) (6A) (8-6) – 56
16. Springstead (Spring Hill) (6A) (11-2) – 52
17. St. Augustine (6A) (8-3) – 46
18. Ed White (Jacksonville) (6A) (8-3) – 31
19. Dixie County (Cross City) (1A) (10-1) – 29
20. Warner Christian (South Daytona) (2A) (9-2) – 19
Also receiving votes: University Christian (Jacksonville) (2A) (9-3) – 18; Sandalwood (Jacksonville) (8A) (8-3) – 16; Union County (Lake Butler) (1A) (10-2) – 14; Gainesville (6A) (9-3) – 9; Lafayette (Mayo) (1A) (7-3) – 6; Leesburg (6A) (8-4) – 5; Seabreeze (Daytona Beach) (6A) (7-3) – 4; Suwannee (Live Oak) (5A) (7-3) – 4; Menendez (St. Augustine) (5A) (8-3) – 4; Fort White (4A) (7-2) – 3; Citrus (Inverness) (6A) (9-2) – 2; Baker County (Glen St. Mary) (5A) (8-3) – 1.