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The Prep Zone Insider – Friday, Nov. 11

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Football on FieldBy Marty Pallman
Twitter – @mpallman

Friday, November 11

Happy Veteran’s Day!  Thanks to those of you who have served or continue to serve. 

The high school football playoffs are back! Here is a look at the opening round games plus predictions for the state championship games at Camping World Stadium in Orlando in December for Classes 1A-3A. Area teams in bold.  Click here for my preview of the Class 4A-8A games.

3A Regional Semifinals – Episcopal (Jacksonville) (8-1) at Florida High (Tallahassee) (6-4) – In his fourth season as head coach, Mark Brunell has Episcopal in the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Eagles were undefeated until final game of regular season, but were beaten by Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) 44-17, sending Episcopal on the road as District 2-3A runner-up. Florida High dropped three games in a row in the regular season and lost 26-7 to District 1-3A opponent Pensacola Catholic in district opener. But Seminoles blanked Taylor County (Perry) 27-0 to force a three-way district tiebreaker, and won two quarters to be crowned district champions. The winner of this game will play the Taylor County-Trinity Christian winner next week in a 3A regional final

3A Regional Semifinals – Taylor County (Perry) (5-4) at Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) (7-3) – Trinity Christian begins their quest for fourth consecutive 3A state title. The season was a roller coaster of sorts for the Conquerors to start, starting 2-2 with an opening week loss at Cocoa and dropping a rare home game to 7A Lincoln. But Trinity Christian has won five of six since, the only loss 34-21 to one of the top teams in the country, IMG Academy (Bradenton). Trinity Christian rolled through District 2-3A opposition in Episcopal and Providence (Jacksonville) by a combined 100-30, and would see to be back in the position of favorite in 3A. Taylor County started 5-1, but comes limping into the postseason after dropping three straight games to Madison County, Florida High, and Newberry. Newberry put 60 points on the Bulldogs in a romp last week. Taylor County had to go through a three-way tiebreaker to make the playoffs, losing to Florida High in the but beating Pensacola Catholic to advance as the runner-up in District 1-3A.

3A Regional Semifinals – Trinity Catholic (Ocala) (4-4) at Tampa Catholic (5-3) – Trinity Catholic runs their playoff streak to 14 straight years despite a .500 regular season. In his second season, Joe Sturdivant has continued the Trinity Catholic playoff tradition, following in the footsteps of Kerwin Bell, Ricky Nattiel, and John Brantley. Celtics opened season 1-3, including 14-10 loss at eventual District 3-3A champ The First Academy (Orlando), but rolled pas Father Lopez (Daytona Beach) and Trinity Prep (Winter Park) by a combined 80-7 to advance back to playoffs as district runner-up. The winner of this game faces Tampa Berkeley Prep-First Academy winner next week.

3A Championship Game Pick: Trinity Christian over Oxbridge Academy (West Palm Beach)

2A Regional Semifinals – Cedar Creek Christian (Jacksonville) (2-8) at North Florida Christian (Tallahassee) (7-3) – Cedar Creek Christian is back in the playoffs despite a two win season. The Saints only wins were against their District 2-2A rivals, 14-12 over Eagle’s View (Jacksonville) and 22-18 over Harvest Community (Jacksonville). That was enough to get Cedar Creek Christian back into the postseason. Last year Cedar Creek Christian traveled to Tallahassee with a 7-3 record but was eliminated 42-12 by NFC. North Florida Christian is tied for fourth in FHSAA history with seven state titles, and tied a state record with four consecutive championships from 1998-2001. The winner here gets the FAMU-University Christian (Jacksonville) winner next week in the 2A regional finals.

2A Regional Semifinals – FAMU (Tallahassee) (1-7) at University Christian (Jacksonville) (6-2) – University Christian begins it’s quest to repeat as 2A state champions. Last year’s state championship gave the Christians eight titles, third behind Bolles and St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale). University Christian dropped back-to-back games at Jax Trinity Christian and Coffee (SC), but has won five in a row, including stomping their three District 2-2A opponents by a combined 185-10. Christians allowed only 134 points all season. UC shouldn’t have much trouble in the opening round with FAMU, whose only win against Maclay (Tallahassee) qualified them as the runner-up in District 1-2A.

2A Regional Semifinals – Foundation Academy (Winter Garden) (6-4) at Trinity Christian (Deltona) (7-3) – Trinity Christian had no trouble with it’s district, rolling to the 2A-3 title. Eagles enter playoffs winning four out of last five, but dropped season finale at Pine Ridge (Deltona) 41-33. The winner here plays the winner of Warner Christian-Victory Christian game next week in 2A regional final.

2A Regional Semifinals – Warner Christian (South Daytona) (3-6) at Victory Christian (Lakeland) (8-1) – Warner Christian only won three games, but a 53-24 win over Halifax Academy (Daytona Beach) was enough to advance Warner as runner-up to Trinity Christian in District 3-2A. This will be an extremely tough test for Warner Christian, as Victory Christian won the 2A state title two years ago and advanced to the state semifinals last year, losing to University Christian.

2A Championship Game Pick: University Christian over Cambridge Christian (Tampa)

1A Regional Semifinals – Baldwin (7-3) at Madison County (9-0) – Madison County has two state titles, 2A championships in 2001 and 2007, but are searching for first 1A championship. Cowboys have outscored opponents 335-89, and have beaten three 5A teams in Rickards (Tallahassee), Wakulla (Crawfordville), and last week handed Baker County it’s first loss of the season 26-21. Madison County is a favorite to at least advance to Orlando, but first they open up the 1A playoffs against a very good Baldwin team. Baldwin advanced as the runner-up in District 6-1A to Fort White, sending them on the road to Madison for the first round. The Indians other losses were to 4A West Nassau (Callahan) and to 7A playoff team Lee. The winner of this game advances to play the winner of Hamilton County-Fort White next week in 1A region final.

1A Regional Semifinals – Hamilton County (Jasper) (4-5) at Fort White (8-2) – Fort White won another District 6-1A title for coach Demetric Jackson, blowing their district opponents with the closest game 27-7 over Baldwin. Fort White advanced to the second round of the playoffs in 2015, playing Madison County to the wire before losing 28-19. As for Hamilton County, they were obliterated by Madison County 58-0, but turned around and traveled to Mayo to blank Lafayette 17-0 to advance to the postseason as the runner-up in 1A-5.

1A Regional Semifinals – Frostproof (5-5) at Trenton (8-1) – Trenton is back in playoffs trying to repeat at 1A state champions and also capture third state title in four years. Bill Wiles left Santa Fe to take the Trenton after Andrew Thomas took a job in Alabama last winter. The Tigers have won eight in a row after being blanked 16-0 in the opening game by defending 5A state runner-up Wakulla (Crawfordville). Trenton rallied from an 18-7 deficit to edge Newberry 19-18, which gave the Tigers another District 7-1A title. Frostproof advanced to the playoffs as the runner-up in District 8-1A as they stunned Fort Meade on the road 28-27. The winner of this game plays the Newberry-Pahokee winner next week in the 1A regional final.

Fox Sports Radio Gainesville and Ocala1A Regional Semfinals – Newberry (8-1) at Pahokee (10-0) – Newberry has one of the longer trips in the state for week one, as they head to the Muck to play Pahokee. These two teams played for the 2007 2B state championship in Orlando, and Pahokee pulled away 53-14 to win the title. That was the middle championship in a streak of three in a row for the Blue Devils, and Pahokee has six state championships overall. Pahokee had gone through some hard times but returned to the postseason as District 8-1A champion a year ago, only to be knocked off at home by Dixie County (Cross City). Newberry returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2012, when the Panthers advanced to the state semifinals, losing a classic in overtime to Trenton. Newberry played a similar game with Trenton this season, but let an 18-7 third quarter lead slip away. The Panthers rallied the following week to win at Dixie County, clinching the runner-up position in District 7-1A, but also meant they had to take the long trip to Lake Okeechobee. This may be one of the top first round games in the state, and this game can be heard live on The Prep Zone with Donald Taylor calling the action on Friday night with kickoff set for 7:30.  The game will also be broadcast on Florida Sports Talk in Gainesville (92.1 FM & 1230 AM) and Ocala (100.1 FM & 900 AM).

1A State Championship Game Pick: Madison County over Blountstown

Joe Pinkos predictions

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