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The Prep Zone Insider


Ridaught_head shotBy Mike Ridaught

Twitter – @ridaught

Friday, November 21

It’s finally here. We’ve reached the second round of the state football playoffs. Why is week #2 so big? Because we’ve separated the pretenders from the contenders.

That was certainly evident in Class 8A – where every team that was either ranked or receiving votes in the AP state poll won their first-round game. Miramar, which was receiving votes, was the only team not to advance but that’s because they had to vacate their spot due to allegations that the former coach paid players to transfer to the school or make big hits on the field.

A total of 62 teams in eight different classes are in the state rankings, with a top 10 in the bigger classifications (5A-8A) and a top five in the smaller classes (1A-4A). Typically, there are a total of 60 teams ranked in the state football polls, but two different teams are tied for 10th to comprise a total of 62 teams in the final AP poll.

Of those 62 teams that are ranked, only eight lost on Friday night. However, of those eight teams that lost, four of them lost to a ranked team or a team receiving votes – No. 7 Boynton Beach lost at #2 Miami Central in 6A, #10t Hillsborough lost at No. 8 Venice in 6A, #10t Lake Gibson (Lakeland) lost at RV South Fort Myers in 6A, and No. 10 Wakulla (Crawfordville) lost at #4 West Florida (Pensacola) in 5A.

The next round offers up some great area match-ups: Lake Mary travels to First Coast (Jacksonville) in a battle of unbeaten (11-0) in Class 8A, Defending 4A state runners-up Bolles (Jacksonville), ranked 5th in 4A, is at RV Raines (Jacksonville), top-ranked South Sumter (Bushnell) hosts #7 Suwannee (Live Oak) in 5A, defending 3A state champion Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) is at Trinity Catholic (Ocala) in a match-up of top five teams and top-ranked Dixie County (Cross City) hosts No. 5 Union County (Lake Butler) in Class 1A.

And that’s just locally.

On a state level, there’s top-ranked Dr. Phillips and #5 Plant (Tampa) in 8A, #3 Lakeland at #4 Osceola (Kissimmee) in 7A, #3 Armwood (Seffner) is at #8 Venice in 6A, #2 Miami Central, defending state champions, hosts #4 Hallandale in 6A, #4 West Florida (Pensacola) at #6 Godby (Tallahassee) in 5A, #3 Cocoa is at #2 Clewiston in 4A, and #2 American Heritage (Delray Beach) is at #4 Westminster Christian (Miami).

football_orlando finalsHere’s a look at match-ups tonight involving teams in The Prep Zone’s coverage area, along with a preview of the some of the games:

Class 8A – Regional Semifinals

Lake Mary at First Coast (Jacksonville)

Preview: The Bucs, tied for first with Dr. Phillips (Orlando) in the state rankings, are led by FSU commit De’Andre Johnson. The senior QB is currently second all-time in the state in career passing yardage and he is 38-1 as a four-year starter. First Coast (11-0) is only allowing 10.4 points per game, while Lake Mary (11-0) is averaging 39.4 points per game. The Rams are led by QB Cannon Thompson, who is averaging 232 yards per game through the air with 31 TDs and only 7 INT.

Class 7A – Regional Semifinals

Fletcher (Neptune Beach) at Oakleaf (Orange Park)

Preview: The Senators (7-4) have been road warriors the past three years. Following last week’s win at 9-1 Oak Ridge (Orlando), Fletcher is now 8-2 on the road in the playoffs since 2011. They get District-3 foe Oakleaf (Orange Park), who beat the Senators, 28-7, on October 31, en route to their first unbeaten regular season in school history. Last week, the Knights (11-0) defeated Wekiva (Apopka), 17-14, for their first playoff win in school history.

Class 6A – Regional Semifinals

St. Augustine at Ed White (Jacksonville)

Sunlake (Land O’ Lakes) at Gainesville

Preview: This is a rematch of last year’s opening round game which GHS won, 17-14, thanks to its special teams. The Purple Hurricanes rallied from a 10-7 deficit to win by returning a punt for a score, blocking a punt and a game-winning 42-yard FG. Last week, the ‘Canes (6-5) defeated Mitchell (New Port Richey), 24-17, thanks to big plays. After a goal-line stand, QB Caelan Christian (2o TDs & only 5 INT), threw a 99-yard TD pass to Dock Luckie. Gainesville also got a pick-6 from sophomore Raijuahn Alexander.

The Seahawks (9-2) eliminated Vanguard (Ocala), 24-6. They had six quarterback sacks and did not turn the ball over. They also forced three turnovers and scored 21 unanswered points to advance.

Edgewater (Orlando) at Mainland (Daytona Beach)

Class 5A – Regional Semifinals

Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) at Clay (Green Cove Springs)

Preview: Last year’s game set the state record for combined points in a 74-73 regulation win for Clay, which advanced all the way to the 5A state championship game after the second round win. Bishop Kenny QB John Wolford set the national record for most individual yards of total offense (773), but Wolford is now at Wake Forest. The Crusaders (9-1) still have star power in LB/WR Charles Wade, while QB Jackson Bradley threw five touchdown passes last week against Palatka.

The Blue Devils (10-1) lost Wes Weeks to graduation, and they lost outstanding RB Bilal Aly in Week #1 to an injury. However, QB J.T. Turner and RB Colin Wilson have helped lead Clay to 315 yards per game on the ground this season, which makes it tough for the opposing team to get the ball back. The Crusaders are averaging 35.4 points per game since their only loss Oct. 10 to district foe Westside (Jacksonville), but the Blue Devils, who have won 10 in a row at home, have given up 22 or less points in eight of their 11 games. They have won six in a row since a 35-21 loss at Class 7A & unbeaten Oakleaf (Orange Park) on Sept. 26.

Suwannee (Live Oak) at South Sumter (Bushnell)

Preview: The Bulldogs (10-1) won their first district football title in 11 years but they had to rally in Week #1 to keep their postseason hopes alive. Suwannee (10-1) overcame a 24-6 third-quarter deficit to beat Zephyrills, while South Sumter, ranked No. 1 in the state in 5A, came up with a couple of big stops in the red zone to edge North Marion (Citra), 16-12. Last year the Raiders (11-0), who just finished off their third straight unbeaten regular season, dominated the Bulldogs, 31-12.

Class 4A – Regional Finals

Florida High (Tallahassee) at Madison County

Bolles (Jacksonville) at Raines (Jacksonville)


Class 3A – Regional Finals

Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) at Trinity Catholic (Jacksonville)

Preview: The defending 3A state champion Conquerors (8-2) are loaded with D-I talent: Kevin Tolliver II (LSU commit), Jeffrey Holland (Undeclared), Victor Alexander (UCLA commit), Deontai Williams (Georgia commit), Ben Edwards (Stanford lean), and Kendrick Norton (Undeclared), just to name a few. Toliver, Holland, Norton, Edwards & Williams are ranked in the ESPN 300.

They are loaded on the defensive side of the ball, but if there is a weakness it’s that they “haven’t jelled or clicked like we should offensively. Our biggest thing is consistency,” said Head Coach Verlon Dorminey, who is trying to lead Trinity Christian to back-to-back state titles for the second time in his 24-year coaching career. Trinity Christian is one of only five Jacksonville-area programs to win consecutive state titles (2002-03). The Conquerors (8-2) have lost both games on the road to nationally-ranked teams – Buford (GA.) & IMG Academy (Bradenton).

Trinity Catholic has its own share of D-I talent: Darrien McNair (Mississippi State), Ulysees Gilbert (Cincinnati), Marquis Hendrix (Undeclared) and junior Jordan Woods. The Celtics’ (9-1) only blemish was a 45-22 loss at home to then No. 1 Clearwater Central Catholic on Sept. 26. Trinity Catholic, currently ranked third in 3A, will get a boost tonight with the return of RB London Gaskin, who was suspended for last week’s game against Providence (Jacksonville). Gaskin, who has 54 carries for 726 yards and 7 TDs, is a big-play receiver out of the backfield and threat in the return game. Trinity Catholic doesn’t have history on its side though as the Celtics have lost nine of their last 10 games to ranked teams (Trinity Christian is ranked 5th in 3A). This will be a physical battle by both defenses and the team that doesn’t make mistakes, turn the ball over, etc. will likely be the team that comes out on top.

Class 2A – Regional Finals

North Florida Christian (Tallahassee) at University Christian (Jacksonville)

Warner Christian (South Daytona) at Victory Christian Academy (Lakeland)


Class 1A – Regional Finals

Hamilton County (Jasper) at Trenton

Preview: The Tigers are the defending 1A state champions. Their only loss was at home to Dixie County, who they could face for the second consecutive year in the state semifinals. Trenton is tough to beat at home. In fact, the Bears snapped the Tigers (10-1) 22-game home winning streak in September, but they have won five in a row at home since, outscoring their opponents at home, 218-71, during that stretch.

The visiting Trojans recorded 4.5 sacks last week in a 34-21 win over Hilliard. They are physical and athletic. Quarterback Kentwan Daniels leads the team in rushing and has accounted for 18 TDs. Last year, the Tigers overcame five turnovers in beating the Trojans, 59-32, in Jasper. Hamilton County has been ranked as high as No. 2 in the state rankings, while Trenton is currently #2 in the state behind Dixie County.

Union County (Lake Butler) at Dixie County (Cross City)

Preview: The Tigers rolled to a 55-0 win at Crescent City last week behind the passing of Caleb Cox, who threw for 330 yards and four TDs. The Tigers (9-2) have had their backs against the wall the last few weeks of the season after a 30-18 loss at home to Dixie County on Oct. 3. In that game, Union County had seven turnovers. It was the first win for the Bears (11-0) in Lake Butler since 1986.

Dixie County, which has won 22 of its last 23 games, had over 300 yards rushing in a 40-9 win over Taylor (Pierson). Their defense only allowed 142 yards of offense, but it will be much tougher tonight against a Tigers’ team that has gotten better as they season has gone alone and they have outscored their opponents, 231-45, since the loss to Dixie County.

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