By Marty Pallman
Twitter – @mpallman
Friday, December 9, 3 p.m. at Camping World Stadium, Orlando
5A championship: #1 American Heritage (Plantation) (13-0) vs. #3 Ponte Vedra (13-0)
Head coaches: Ponte Vedra: Matthew Toblin, third year (24-10 at Ponte Vedra), fifth year overall (41-17); American Heritage: Patrick Surtain, first year (13-0)
State titles: Ponte Vedra – none
American Heritage: 2 – 2013, 14
Road to Orlando:
Ponte Vedra: d. Yulee, 51-19, in regional quarterfinals; d. Ribault, 35-32, in regional semifinals; d. Rickards, 31-20, in regional finals; d. Clay, 52-42, in state semifinals.
American Heritage: d. Westwood, 55-12, in regional quarterfinals; d. Cardinal Gibbons, 10-7, in regional semifinals; d. Bishop Moore, 20-7, in regional finals; d. Jesuit, 21-14, in state semifinals.
The skinny: Ponte Vedra has only been a high school since 2008, and had just two playoff wins prior to this year’s run to Orlando and their first state championship game appearance. The Sharks made a run to the 5A regional final in 2011, but were knocked out in the opening round by Bishop Kenny in 2012 and Ribault a year ago.
Tronti has been almost single handedly leading Ponte Vedra in the playoffs, and they have been involved in some shootouts the past three weeks against Ribault, Rickards, and Clay. Clay coach Josh Hoekstra said after last week’s game that Tronti has “put his team on his shoulders.” Swan adds to the 1-2 punch with Tronti, and he will need to be very active against an extremely tough American Heritage defense. Wide receiver Marshall Few has also a major part of this Sharks offense.
Defensively, Ponte Vedra has given up some points, but have made the stops when needed, includen a late interception by Andrew O’Dare to put away Clay. Tronti may have to once again put Ponte Vedra on his shoulders against one of the top teams in the nation.
The Patriots are no stranger to playing at Camping World Stadium as they are looking for their third state championship in four seasons. Patrick Surtain has continued the winning tradition for Heritage in his first season as head coach after taking over for Mike Rumph, who is now an assistant coach at Miami.
American Heritage is a little different than Ponte Vedra in that their defense has been extremely dominant, allowing only 134 points all season, and 32 of those came in a win over Miami Northwestern. The Patriots have won their last three postseason games by a combined 23 points, but allowed only 28 points combined in wins over Cardinal Gibbons, defending 5A state champion Bishop Moore, and Jesuit.
The offense is steady, and Brown is a smart QB and leader who doesn’t make mistakes and makes enough plays to win. The Patriots have played a challenging schedule and have beaten all comers to this point, and will be a heavy favorite as a nationally ranked team against a Ponte Vedra team making it’s first trip to Orlando. Prediction: American Heritage 31, Ponte Vedra 17.