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The Prep Zone Insider – FHSAA Football Playoffs

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By Marty PallmanMarty Pallman

What a day last Sunday at the FHSAA headquarters in Gainesville. I had a chance to co-host the inaugural FHSAA Football Playoffs Selection Show with Austin Lyon of Spectrum Sports. We announced the brackets in a one-hour show that was the first of it’s kind for high school football in Florida. Regular season games wrapped up on Saturday evening around the state, and the points for who was out and who was in were still being tabulated as of Sunday morning. Kudos to the FHSAA staff, led by football administrator Frank Beasley, along with Kyle Niblett and Will Adams, who were able to keep the information under wraps until the live show Sunday morning.

It was fun being able to talk about the brackets as they came up on the monitor in front of us and also have some instant analysis. We ran through all 8 classes and the matchups, then ran through them again with a key game in each classification highlighted. Joshua Wilson of Florida HS Football was in the room as well and was tweeting out the brackets as they were being announced. Josh did a fantastic job as always with his coverage and was granted all-access all weekend from the FHSAA. You can find his coverage at www.floridahsfootball.com as well as his podcast live from Buffalo Wild Wings in Gainesville on Sunday night. You can watch the selection show at www.nfhsnetwork.com. Again thanks to the FHSAA staff and Austin Lyon of Spectrum Sports for letting me be a part of this historic day.

Surprises from Selection Sunday

Ribault’s loss on Saturday to Raines by a running clock in the annual rivalry game dropped the Trojans from a possible 1 seed to a 4 seed in Region 1-5A.

Three teams from District 4-5A advanced to the playoffs with Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) and Bolles (Jacksonville) playing in this week’s regional quarterfinal at Trinity. The third team from this district, Ponte Vedra, travels to Godby (Tallahassee) for their playoff opener. Despite a 7-3 record, Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) was left out of the playoffs from District 4-5A after losing to the other three teams in their district.

Other surprises to me include Buchholz (Gainesville) in Region 1-7A. The Bobcats were 10th in the region in last week’s standings, but leapfrogged to 7th in the final standings and will open the playoffs this week at Edgewater (Orlando). Buchholz finished 5-5 but took advantage of a schedule that included playoff teams Columbia (Lake City), Vanguard (Ocala), Gainesville, Fleming Island (Orange Park), Belleview, and Bartram Trail (St. Johns) to advance to the postseason for the third time in four years.

Another surprise comes from Class 4A, where Keystone Heights edged The Villages 32 to 31.9 points to take the 4th and final seed in Region 2 and will play at Bradford (Starke) this Friday night. Despite a 4-5 record, the Indians leapfrogged The Villages and Mount Dora in the final week to make the playoffs.

In Region 1-3A, Newberry edged Baldwin for the fourth and final playoff spot. Despite a 3-6 record, the Panthers strength of schedule was enough to put them in the field and they will travel to Taylor County (Perry) for a rematch of a regular season game won by Taylor County.

Finally in 1A, Williston’s win over Chiefland in the final week of the regular season put the Red Devils in over Crescent City in Region 4. Williston (5-5) will take the long trip to the Muck this week to play Pahokee in a region semifinal.

The loss for Chiefland left them out and kept Union County (Lake Butler) in as the 4th seed in Region 3 despite the Tigers losing their final three games. Union County faces a daunting task as it heads to top-seeded and top-ranked Madison County another region semifinal this Friday.

nfhs-logoCongratulations to Saint Francis Catholic Academy (Gainesville) and Coach Scott McDaniel for their first state playoff appearance in school history. Despite losing 14-12 at St. John Paul II (Tallahassee) last week in the North Florida Football Conference Championship Game, the Wolves (8-1) are the #2 seed in Region 1-2A and will Region 2-2A and will host the first playoff game in school history this Friday against Seven Rivers Christian (Lecanto). The Prep Zone will have live video coverage of the Wolves’ historic first playoff game this Friday night with Mike Ridaught and George Koziara on the call beginning with the pregame show at 7:15 PM.  Click here to watch Seven Rivers Christian at St. Francis Catholic.

Playoff match-ups involving teams in The Prep Zone viewing and listening area:

Regional Quarterfinals – Friday, November 10

Class 8A

Spruce Creek (Port Orange) (8-1) at Winter Park (10-0) – Despite only one loss, 17-14 to undefeated Flagler Palm Coast, the Hawks only made it into the Region 1-8A playoffs as a #8 seed. Tough first-round matchup at an undefeated Winter Park team. Prediction: Winter Park

Boone (Orlando) (7-2) at Flagler Palm Coast (9-0) – Quite a season for the Bulldogs, finishing with an undefeated season. The season should continue for another week. Prediction: Flagler Palm Coast

Class 7A

East Ridge (Clermont) (7-3) at Bartram Trail (St. Johns) (7-3) – East Ridge made it in as a #8 seed in Region 1 after winning a tiebreaker by beating Hagerty (Oviedo) head-to-head. East Ridge’s Justin Watkins will have a nice individual matchup against Bartram Trail’s all-everything Joey Gatewood, an Auburn commit. But the Bears are the better team this week. Prediction: Bartram Trail

Columbia (Lake City) (7-3) at Lincoln (Tallahassee) (4-6), Thursday, November 9 – A rematch of a regular season game won by Columbia, also in Tallahassee. Lincoln is at home but stumbled into the playoffs. Prediction: Columbia

Fleming Island (Orange Park) (8-2) at Robert E. Lee (Jacksonville) (9-1) – One of the best first-round matchups in the area should be a defensive slugfest. Lee has more offensive weapons and a better quarterback in Derrick Jones. Prediction: Robert E. Lee

Buchholz (Gainesville) (5-5) at Edgewater (Orlando) (8-2) – The Bobcats have been battle-tested despite the .500 record. Nice bounce back for Edgewater from an 0-10 season in 2016, but the Eagles schedule has been weak. Prediction: Buchholz

Class 6A

Tate (Cantonment) (6-3) at St. Augustine (9-0) – St. Augustine may have the talent and defense to finally make a run back to Orlando. The Yellow Jackets are the only non-Panhandle team in Region 1. Prediction: St. Augustine.

Florida Sports TalkGainesville (8-2) at Vanguard (Ocala) (9-0) – This game is further proof that the system works as these district rivals would normally have to wait to meet in the regional semifinals. Vanguard had shutouts in six of nine games this season, but had to score a TD in the final minute to beat GHS 31-24 at Citizens Field in October. That was the non-double digit victory for the Knights in 2017. Another one of the top opening round games in the area. Gainesville is confident and playing well, but sticking with Vanguard at home. This game will be broadcast with live streaming audio at ThePrepZone.com and on radio on WMOP AM 900/FM 100.1 in Ocala and WGGG AM 1230/FM 92.1 in Gainesville beginning Friday night at 7 p.m. Join myself and Michael Phillips for all the action.  Prediction: Vanguard.

Matanzas (Palm Coast) (6-3) at Northwestern (Miami) (7-2) – Nice season for Matanzas, but this is a lot to ask. Northwestern one of four teams in the playoffs from District 6A-16 (Miami Central, Miami Carol City, Miami Norland, Northwestern). Prediction: Miami Northwestern

Norland (Miami) (6-3) at Mainland (Daytona Beach) (6-3) – Mainland just can’t get out of the region with the Miami teams. Going to be another tough game for the Bucs. Prediction: Miami Norland

Class 5A

Wakulla (Crawfordville) (8-2) at Ribault (Jacksonville) (7-3) – Ribault drops into this matchup after losing 41-6 to Raines in the final regular season. The Trojans have a very good defense but offense has struggled. Wakulla is very good once again and has to hit road after being runner-up to Godby in District 1-5A. Not a great matchup for Ribault. Prediction: Wakulla

Bolles (Jacksonville) (8-2) at Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) (7-3) – Two of the teams from District 4-5A meet in one of the best opening round matchups. Trinity won the regular season meeting but had to forfeit game to Bolles. Trinity still won district on points as Ponte Vedra beat Bolles to force a three way tie. Bolles first team since Wayne Belger replaced the retired Corky Rogers is excellent running the ball, but struggles on defense. Trinity defense is the key, as the drive to five continues. Prediction: Trinity Christian

Ponte Vedra (7-3) at Godby (Tallahassee) (9-1) – Last year’s 5A state runner-up Ponte Vedra has had a nice season making the playoffs after losing start quarterback Nick Tronti to graduation. But making this long trip to play a Godby team that has only lost 20-19 to 7A Lincoln seems like a bit much. Prediction: Godby

Nature Coast (Brooksville) (7-2) at Baker County (Glen St. Mary) (9-1) – Baker County has won nine in a row since an opening week loss at St. Augustine. The Wildcats shouldn’t have much trouble here. Prediction: Baker County

Menendez (St. Augustine) (7-3) at Belleview (6-4) – High-powered Menendez team has 50 or more points in three games this year and also lost 60-49 at Clay (Green Cove Springs). Belleview stumbled into the playoffs but qualified based on points over Eastside (Gainesville) and North Marion (Citra) in District 6-5A. Prediction: Menendez

Clay (Green Cove Springs) (7-3) at Hernando (Brooksville) (7-2) – Blue Devils advanced as wild card after finishing runner-up to Baker County in District 5-5A. Hernando has had nice season. But November is when Clay starts heating up, and usually plays even better on the road. Prediction: Clay

Regional Semifinals

Class 4A

North Bay Haven Academy (Panama City) (5-4) at Raines (Jacksonville) (9-1) – Raines has an excellent chance to advance to the 4A state championship game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. This will not be close. Prediction: Raines

Marianna (5-4) at West Nassau (Callahan) (9-1) – West Nassau is has been a nice story under the radar, with the Warriors only loss coming to Bradford. They should stick around at least another week in the 4A playoffs. Prediction: West Nassau

Keystone Heights (4-5) at Bradford (Starke) (8-1) – It was a bit surprising to see Keystone Heights when the brackets were released, and now they get a rematch with rival Bradford. Tornadoes defeated Keystone 33-0 in regular season matchup on the road. What a season for Bradford in Brian Tomlinson’s first season, with their only loss at home to Taylor County (Perry) in the opening week. The two towns are 10 miles apart and the two of Starke could be shut down for the tilt. Keystone is a nice story, but Bradford is on a roll and just too good for the Indians. Prediction: Bradford

Trenton (8-2) at Dunnellon (7-2) – Another interesting first-round matchup. It’s been a nice season for Trenton, who moved up to 4A from 1A in coach Lyle Wilkerson’s first season. Dunnellon has been solid all season, with their only losses to Madison County and Baker County. In a battle of Tigers, Dunnellon has been more battle tested and has been here in 4A before. Prediction: Dunnellon

Class 3A

Newberry (3-6) at Taylor County (Perry) (7-3) – Nice season for Taylor County, the #1 seed in Region 1 with their only losses coming to Wakulla, undefeated Dixie County, and by one point at Williston. Taylor County pounded Newberry 46-15 just three weeks ago. The Panthers made it in despite only three wins, taking advantage of a tougher schedule and a win at Trenton to make the playoffs. Prediction: Taylor County

Florida High (Tallahassee) (5-5) at Fort White (7-3) – Another successful season and playoff appearance for Demetric Jackson’s boys in Fort White. The Indians should get a first round playoff win at home and set up a rematch at Taylor County. Prediction: Fort White

Class 2A

FAMU (Tallahassee) (6-4) at University Christian (Jacksonville) (7-2) – University Christian is the odds on favorite to return to Camping World Stadium and three-peat as 2A state champions. No problem in the opening round with the Baby Rattlers. Prediction: University Christian

Seven Rivers Christian (Lecanto) (8-2) at Saint Francis Catholic Academy (8-1) – Wolves and Warriors both make first state playoff appearance after playing as independents. Scott McDaniel’s Saint Francis team can score plenty of points and is extremely fun to watch. Slight edge to the Wolves at home. Prediction: Saint Francis.

Class 1A

Union County (Lake Butler) (6-4) at Madison County (10-0) – Union County slipped in the playoffs despite losing their last three games by double digits. But their run will end quickly at the hands of the Cowboys. Expect to see Madison County in Orlando in the 1A state championship game. Prediction: Madison County

Lafayette (Mayo) (9-1) at Dixie County (Cross City) (10-0) – It’s been a great season for Lafayette, with their only loss at 4A Trenton. Their reward is to travel to unbeaten Dixie County, ranked #2 in 1A by the Associated Press. The Bears have been rolling teams this season, and could present a challenge to Madison County in the regional final next week. Prediction: Dixie County

Williston (5-5) at Pahokee (7-2) – Williston snuck in the playoffs as the #4 seed in Region 4, but now must make the long trip south. Pahokee had the 1A state title stripped last year due to an ineligible player, and probably has plenty to proof as they try to advance back to Orlando. Prediction: Pahokee

Frostproof (6-4) at Wildwood (9-0) – Wildwood is another nice story in 2017. The Wildcats didn’t even have a team two years ago, now they are undefeated and back in the state playoffs. Frostproof has won state titles before and will be a tough opening round matchup for Wildwood, but let’s stick with the undefeated team for now. Prediction: Wildwood

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