By Mike Ridaught
Twitter – @ridaught
Tuesday, September 1
The 2015-16 high school sports seasons are officially underway, but it’s hard to believe we are already in September. So, get out early and check out the action because you might be surprised how fast the season will go. In fact, when the students return from Labor Day on Tuesday, September 8, we will only be six weeks away from district tournament action in volleyball. The golf district tournaments are the week before that. The high school football playoffs don’t begin until Friday, November 13, so there’s a lot of football to be played.
The first regular season games of the high school football campaign were played last Friday night, and yes there were some surprising outcomes, and scores.
Class 4A Santa Fe was a 21-point favorite, according to Joe Pinkos, yet fell behind 21-0 at Class 1A Newberry and lost to their Alachua County rival, 21-12. The Panthers were the early aggressors, got the home crowd into the game, and caught the Raiders off guard early. That was the probably the biggest surprise on Friday night. The Raiders, who dropped down from 5A, are expected to be one of the top teams to watch in the area, while the Panthers aren’t expected to get out of their tough district which includes small school powers Trenton and Dixie County. But it was rivalry game and anything can happen in rivalry games. The win prevented Santa Fe from winning back-to-back games in the series for the first time in 10 years. Newberry has actually dominated the rivalry lately as they won for the eighth time in the last 10 games.
The outcomes of a few other games weren’t necessarily as surprising, but the final score was a bit shocking.
Up in Jacksonville, you had the two of the top rushers in the area in Florida Times-Union Super 11 selection Hussein Howe of University Christian and Jamauri Wakefield of Providence going head-to-head. This was expected to be a close game. In fact, Times-Union prep editor Justin Barney picked Providence to win. Providence had won the year before, 37-28, as Howe & Wakefield had three scores each. Howe-ever, the senior rushed for 172 yards and four TDs on 19 carries to lead UCS to a convincing 37-0 rout of the Stallions. University Christian (Jacksonville), state champions in 2012, moved all the way up from No. 5 to No. 1 in the latest Class 2A AP state football rankings with the victory. The winner wasn’t surprising, but a shutout and blow out were a little shocking.
Another Alachua County meeting took place at Citizen’s Field in Gainesville as Buchholz opened the season against Eastside. This series has been tight the past 11 years with the largest margin of victory of 11 points in 2009. In fact, the average margin of victory since 2004 is only 4.7 points per game. However, Buchholz, the defending mythical city champions, shattered that margin with a dominating 48-13 city win. That’s a 35-point margin of victory in a series that hadn’t even reached a total of 30 points in the previous five games combined. Buchholz has not had a winning season in the past 10 years so the Bobcats could be a surprise team in the area. The ‘Cats had over 400 yards against the Rams, and quarterback Jackson White threw for 248 yards and four TDs. They have former Gators coaching on the offensive side of the ball (Shane Matthews, Cooper Carlisle & Johnny Nichols) which should make it a fun and gun offense. Buchholz will be in action on Thursday at 7 p.m. vs. Citrus (Inverness). They travel to Columbia (Lake City) Columbia the following week. Both of those games will be broadcast online here at theprepzone.com & www.floridacast.com
In Ocala, two-time defending 3A state champion Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) rolled over Trinity Catholic, 49-6, in a game that featured a running clock in the second half. The visiting Conquerors, a unanimous No. 1 in the 3A state poll, may have lost some fire power but they looked every bit the team that could become the first Jacksonville team to win three state football titles in a row. Gone are Kevin Toliver (LSU), Jeffrey Holland (Auburn), Kendrick Norton (Miami), Victor Alexander (Georgia Tech), etc. Head coach Verlon Dorminey told me his team was not as good as last year, but they’re still really good. Before I called their game on the radio, Dorminey told me, “I hope we don’t disappoint.” They didn’t. With First Coast (Jacksonville) transfer D.J. Matthews (an FSU commit) at wide receiver and the 1-2 punch of Rasheed Martin (UNC commit) and Jalin Buie (soft Auburn commit) in the backfield, along with returning QB Billy Cobb, the Conquerors looked like they were in postseason form at times. Even though Cobb threw three picks, he tossed two TDs to Matthews, a 73-yard scoring pass to Damian McGhee and 54-yard TD pass to J.C. Flowers. Then you mix in Dominque Ross (UNC) at linebacker and Shaun Wade (Ohio State) & Tyreke Johnson (top five of LSU, Florida, Alabama, Stanford & UCLA) in the secondary, so there’s plenty of talent to make another run.
I would like to personally welcome and thank Donald Taylor for becoming a part of “The Prep Zone” team. Coach Taylor gives us a coach’s perspective here on the website and during our weekly football broadcasts. Each week during football season, Coach T will give us his ‘3 keys to victory’ and provide ‘color’ analysis during our internet game of the week. He is also the first coach to vote in the Prep Zone Power Poll regional football rankings. He made his debut ‘on air’ this past Friday night when Newberry upset Santa Fe. Here is the archive to listen to the broadcast (Daniel Gillman handled the play-by-play). Coach T and Gillman will be on the call of Eastside at Newberry this Friday night.
QUOTES OF THE GAME
One of our new features this year will be newspaper quotes from players and coaches following the high school football games. Here’s a sample:
Madison County coach Michael Coe on the loss at 5A Rickards (Tallahassee)
“Turnovers killed us. “We’ve got to keep plugging and keep putting them in those situations. We’ll learn from it and get better. Ain’t no one in 1A playing Rickards, I promise you that.” – Tallahassee Democrat
Santa Fe coach Bill Wiles on Newberry’s 21-12 upset of the Raiders
“They were the more physical, tougher team tonight. They came out and hit us on the mouth. They pretty much set the tone on the line of scrimmage.” – Gainesville Sun
ON THE AIR
Each week, there are a number of ways to find out what is going on in high school sports. Listen to ThePrepZone.com sports report presented by SunState Federal Credit Union every Monday, Wednesday & Friday at 7:30 a.m. on WOW-FM 104.9. It’s a two-minute high school sports vignette three times per week. We’ll post the replays here.
“The Prep Zone” provides the most ‘live’ coverage of high school athletics in the Gainesville/Ocala area. Over fifty (50) LIVE/archived broadcasts this fall will be a mixture of video, radio, and ‘audio only’ streaming, including play-by-play for every game, and a weekly prep show, all of which are available via iPhone, iPad or computer.
Our weekly show, “The Prep Zone,” will be broadcast every Monday night from Sonic and will feature a different high school sports team each week, with a look back at the previous weekend and a preview of the upcoming week. Marty Pallman joins me every Monday night to talk high school sports from 6-7 p.m. We’re joined by athletes and coaches each week. The show is broadcast from Sonic on 39th Avenue in Gainesville. However, a select number of shows will be broadcast from Sonic in Ocala, including Monday, September 14, when the Trinity Catholic football team and new coach Joe Sturdivant join us at the Easy Street location to talk Celtics football. Gainesville football coach Mark Latsko and members of the Hurricanes’ football team joined us on Monday, August 31.
Catch my high school football preview every Wednesday at 4:15 p.m. on WRUF-AM 850 & FM-95.3 on The Tailgate with hosts Jeff Cardozo and Adam Schick, as well as every Friday at 4:20 p.m. on Sports Time with Steve Woodard, Scot Brantley and Mark McLeod on Florida Sports Talk powered by NBC Sports (AM-1230 Gainesville, AM-900 Ocala & FM-100.1 Ocala). A total of 11 football games will also be broadcast on the radio every Friday on Florida Sports Talk.
In addition to our football coverage, we’ll also be providing you with high school volleyball coverage in the area. Defending 4A state champion P.K. Yonge (Gainesville), which drops down to 3A and is ranked No. 6 in the country by MaxPreps, has already gotten off to a great start with wins at Foundation Academy (Winter Garden), Ransom Everglades (Miami), and defending 7A state champion St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale). They play at Santa Fe (Alachua) on Wednesday, followed by trips to St. Joseph (St. Augustine) and Gainesville (9/9) before they host their first home match of the season. The Blue Wave open their home schedule against Oak Hall (Gainesville) on Thursday, September 10. We’ll have ‘live’ video coverage of the game beginning at 7 p.m.
It’s going to be a September to remember. Stay tuned, there’s more great coverage coming up in the months ahead.