December 7th, 8:00pm EST (7:00 CST) – 6A State Semifinal Gainesville (13-0) at Navarre (12-1). Join Mike Ridaught (Play-by-play).
Final: Gainesville 62, Navarre 26
Radio: FM-104.9 Gainesville/High Springs/Lake City
Class 6A Semifinals
By Mike Ridaught
The top two teams in Class 6A remain on a collision course for the state championship game in Orlando, putting their unbeaten records on the line in the state semifinals.
Top-ranked Gainesville handed Seffner Armwood its worst playoff loss in school history with a 42-10 win in last week’s regional finals.
The Hurricanes (13-0), who are seeking their first state championship game appearance since defeating Titusville for the 3A state title in 1980, are led by running backs Ralph Webb and Tony James.
Last week, Webb, a senior, rushed for a season-high 213 yards and three touchdowns, while junior Tony James had 128 yards on the ground. The pair, known as ‘lightning and thunder,’ has combined for 2,678 yards and 30 TDs this season.
Plus, senior quarterback Mark Cato (1,907 yards, 26 TDs) has kept defenses honest with his ability to spread the ball around to UF commit Chris Thompson (18.9 yards per reception, 6 TDs), Kenric Young (29 catches, 487 yards, 7 TDs) and leading receiver Case Harrison (46 catches, 742 yards, 7 TDs).
But now GHS must go on the road for the first time in the postseason to face a Navarre team that upset Lake City Columbia, 28-21, to advance to their first state semifinal in the school’s brief history.
Only a one-point loss at Pensacola in Week #2 separates Navarre and first-year coach Jay Walls from an unbeaten season.
Last week, the Raiders (12-1) jumped out to a 21-0 lead and kept the Tigers out of the end zone following Columbia’s lone touchdown on the first play of the second half.
The bend-but-don’t-break defense, which intercepted a pass with 26 seconds to play to preserve the victory, has helped Navarre get to this point, but there are players to watch on offense too.
Senior wide receiver Jordan Leggett has 53 catches for 904 yards and seven touchdowns, while running back Jay Warren has rushed for 1,636 yards and 16 TDs.
In the other semifinal, second-ranked Naples hosts 6A state runners-up, Miami Central.
In order for the visitors to come away with a victory, they must stop a high octane offense.
Naples, which won the 3A state title in 2007, is averaging 50.3 points per game. In fact, the Golden Eagles (12-0) scored a season-low in points last Friday in a 41-13 win over Daytona Beach Mainland.
The key might be slowing down running back Manny Morgan, a candidate for the 7A Player-of-the-Year, who has rushed for 1,739 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Kilton Anderson has been just as effective with 1,177 yards passing, 16 TDs and only four interceptions.
Miami Central counters with junior running back Joseph Yearby, who is averaging seven yards per carry and has scored 14 TDs for the Rockets (10-2).
But, the defense might give them their best chance of pulling the upset.
The Rockets, who have won nine in a row since a 44-34 loss at nationally-ranked #1 Bradenton Manatee, are playing their best defense of the season and have only allowed 16 points total in their three playoff wins.
The Class 6A state title game is scheduled for Saturday, December 15, at 1:07 p.m. in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
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