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The Prep Zone Insider

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Ridaught_head shotBy Mike Ridaught
Twitter – @ridaught

Wednesday, December 3

We head into the final month of the year with the high school football state championship pictures coming into focus a little more. Classifications 1A-4A will play their FHSAA state championship games this weekend at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. Class 5A-8A will play state semifinal games on Friday, with the winners advancing to next weekend’s tournament in O-town. Half of the classifications have teams still playing that won a state title last year & look to defend –Miami Central (6A), American Heritage (Plantation) in 5A, Booker T. Washington (Miami) (4A) and Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) in 3A. In fact, BTW & Miami Central are looking for their third straight state title.

football_orlando finalsThe nationally-ranked Tornadoes go for the 3-peat against Bolles (Jacksonville) in the 4A state title game. It will mark the fourth consecutive year that the Tornadoes and ‘Dogs have met in the championship game. That ties an FHSAA record set by Baker & Glades Day (Belle Glade), both nicknamed the Gators. The Gators played against each other from 1982-1986. In fact, Glades Day made seven straight appearances in the state championship game, but the ‘Gators’ only won two of them (’82 and ’86).

BTW defeated Bolles, 40-21, last year, and 35-7 in 2012. But don’t ever count out Bolles under legendary coach Corky Rogers. He now stands at 444 victories, which is 5th on the all-time list nationally among active coaches, and he improved his record to 74-14 in the postseason after last Friday’s win in Boot Hill at Madison County.

While he may not finish first on the all-time wins list, there is one record that is more likely to stand permanently on Rogers’ resume – his record in the state semifinals is perfect. Rogers, who has been coaching at Bolles since 1989, improved to 15-0 in state semifinal games after Bolles defeated Madison County, 34-15, in the 4A state semifinals. Tim Harris, Jr., has done a great job getting the Tornadoes back to the state title game in his first season as head coach, but Rogers has led Bolles to four straight finals and has led the ‘Dogs to 10 of their 11 football state titles.

Bolles is one of five teams left in The Prep Zone’s coverage area, joining defending 3A state champion Trinity Christian (Jacksonville), Mainland (Daytona Beach) in 6A, Suwannee (Live Oak) in 5A, and Hamilton County (Jasper), which is playing for the 1A state title this weekend in Orlando.

Unbeaten Mainland (Daytona Beach), the #1-ranked team in the Prep Zone Power Poll, is hosting Miami Central (12-1) in the 6A state semifinals. Both teams are nationally ranked. According to prognosticator Joe Pinkos, the Bucs (13-0) are a 14-point underdog at home against the two-time defending champs. Miami Central dominated Armwood (Seffner), 52-7, in last year’s 6A title game. The Rockets defeated Gainesville, 37-14, for the title in 2012. They have won three state titles since 2010. Meanwhile, the Bucs, who won their only state football title in 2003, is led by sophomore QB Denzel Houston on offense and senior DB Meiko Dotson on a defense that is only allowing 8.8 points per game. Miami Central is averaging 35.8 points per game. Last year, Miami Central defeated Mainland, 28-15, in Miami. This year, the game is in Daytona.

Trinity ChristianAnother game involving a former nationally-ranked team is in Class 3A. That’s where Trinity Christian (Jacksonville), which is loaded with D-I players and began the season in the national rankings, looks to defend its state title against American Heritage (Delray Beach). Pinkos likes American Heritage in this one by six.

Both of these teams have combined for seven state football titles since 2002, but, like Corky Rogers, don’t count out Trinity Christian coach Verlon Dorminey, who probably gets overshadowed because he’s in the same city as Rogers. Dorminey is seeking to back-to-back state titles for the second time in his career at TC. He’s collected state titles in 2002, 2003, 2010 & 2013.

The Conquerors defeated Clearwater Central Catholic, 34-7, in last year’s title game. CCC, which has been ranked No. 1 in 3A for most of the season after TC lost early, lost to the 2nd-ranked Patriots in the state semifinals, 63-13. In all fairness to CCC, they were playing without star quarterback Jeff Smith (Boston College commit) due to injury. Nonetheless, American Heritage, the 2011 state champions, is ranked No. 2 in the state in Class 3A. They also knocked off #4 Westminster Christian (Miami), 23-7, in the regional finals.

Kudos to Hamilton County (Jasper). The Trojans advanced to their first state championship game appearance since 1975 with an 18-12 win at top-ranked Dixie County (Cross City) in the Class 1A state semifinals. They are certainly battle tested, with a win at defending state champion Trenton in the regional finals. Beating the Nos. 1 & 2 teams on the road will give them confidence going against Port St. Joe, which enters the game unranked, along with Hamilton County. The Sharks, who have posted back-to-back shutouts in the postseason, are seeking their fourth state football title in school history while the Trojans are seeking their first.

Finally, I’ll be on the call (NFHS Network.com) for our other area team – Suwannee (Live Oak). The Bulldogs followed up a win on the road at No. 1 South Sumter (Bushnell) with a 37-0 thumping of Lakewood (St. Pete). This week they host Godby (Tallahassee), which eliminated Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville), . Both teams have won four state football titles in school history. The Cougars won the 2012 state title with a narrow 21-20 win over Immokalee. They also won state titles in 1976 and back-to-back in 1986-87. Suwannee won four in a row under coach Mike Pittman from 1987-1990. I’ll have more on this match-up, including my conversation with Godby first-year coach Todd Lanter, on Thursday.

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