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The Prep Zone Insider – Thursday, Nov. 10

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Football on FieldBy Marty Pallman
Twitter – @mpallman

Thursday, Nov. 10

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

8A Regional Quarterfinal – Sandalwood (Jacksonville) (7-1) at Seminole (Sanford) (9-0) – Saints are back in playoffs but for second year in a row have a tough test on the road against undefeated Seminole. Sandalwood lost in 8A regional quarterfinal at Lake Brantley (Altamonter Springs) 44-30 a year ago. Saints only loss was 34-31 at Mandarin (Jacksonville) as Sandalwood blew a 24-0 lead, but Saints knocked off Mandarin in district tiebreaker quarter to make postseason asnDistrict 1-8A runner-up. Winner plays Lake Brantley-Spruce Creek winner in regional semifinals next week.

8A Regional Quarterfinal – Lake Brantley (Altamonte Springs) (6-4) at Spruce Creek (Port Orange) (7-3) – Spruce Creek is in playoffs for first time since 2008. The Hawks dropped close 17-14 contest to Sandalwood but rallied to beat Mandarin 42-19 to force three-way tiebreaker. Spruce Creek had to work overtime and knocked off both Sandalwood and Mandarin to win District 1-8A title. Lake Brantley lost 35-28 to Seminole and 43-42 at Lake Mary but advanced as runner-up in District 2-8A.

8A State Championship Pick: Apopka over Miami Southridge

7A Regional Quarterfinal – Columbia (Lake City) (6-3) at Lincoln (Tallahassee) (5-3) – Columbia has won five in a row after a 1-3 start, which included loss to playoff teams Trinity Christian (Jacksonville), Buchholz (Gainesville), and district rival Lee (Jacksonville). Tigers advanced to 7A state semifinals in 2015, where they were eliminated by Viera. Senior quarterback Davin Schuck struggled and was benched in the first part of the season, but has come back to lead Columbia on current winning streak. Lincoln dropped games to Niceville, Rickards (Tallahassee), and University (Orange City), but were able to win District 1-7A. Winner of this game plays Tallahassee Leon-Lee game next week in regional semifinals.

7A Regional Quarterfinal – Leon (Tallahassee) (6-2) at Lee (Jacksonville) (7-1) – The Lee program has had a renaissance under O.J. Small, leading the Generals to the playoffs in 2015 and capturing District 2-7A title this season. Lee lost 44-41 overtime classic an Lincoln in 7A regional quarterfinal a year ago. The Generals have won seven in a row, dropping only the season 34-28 at Raines (Jacksonville) where they blew a double digit lead in the fourth quarter. Lee’s 28-7 win at Columbia in the district opener pretty much up the district title for the Generals.

wygc_logo 104.97A Regional Quarterfinal – Hagerty (Oviedo) (9-1) at Buchholz (Gainesville) (7-2) – Buchholz won it’s second consecutive District 3-7A title, going undefeated in the district. The Bobcats only losses this season were 20-7 at 6A Vanguard (Ocala) and 31-30 in double OT to city rival Gainesville. Buchholz defeated Edgewater (Orlando) in the first round of the playoffs 36-27 a year ago before being knocked out by Bartram Trail in the regional semifinals. Hagerty, the alma mater of former University of Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, lost only at District 4-7A rival Ocoee during the regular season. The Huskies lost in the 7A regional quarterfinals a year ago to Bartram Trail. Defense should be at a premium here, as Hagerty has allowed only 109 points, Buchholz 111. The winner of this game will play the Bartram Trail-Ocoee winner next week in ther regional semifinals. This game can be heard on 104.9 FM from Citizens Field with Mike Ridaught and George Koziara on the call. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with the Mark McGriff State Farm Insurance of Gainesville pregame show.

7A Regional Quarterfinal – Bartram Trail (St. Johns) (6-4) at Ocoee (7-3) – Bartram Trail struggled at times this season, losing three out of four at one point. But those losses were to playoff teams Mainland (Daytona Beach), St. Augustine, Buchholz, and Ponte Vedra. Bartram Trail knocked off Oakleaf (Orange Park) 49-35 to finish as the runner-up to Buchholz in District 3-7A. The Bears were road warriors a year ago, winning at Hagerty and Buchholz before being eliminated by Columbia 51-14 in the regional final. Ocoee dropped it’s first two games to Apopka and Lake Nona, but swept through District 4-7A, beating Hagerty 20-13 to win the district title.

7A State Championship Pick: St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) over Plant (Tampa)

6A Regional Quarterfinal – Niceville (8-2) at St. Augustine (9-1) – These two teams met in the opening round of the 6A playoffs a year ago in the Panhandle, as Niceville knocked off St. Augustine 20-3. Niceville was eliminated in the 6A regional final by Tate (Cantonment) 21-20. The Eagles 27-21 loss at Crestview two weeks ago cost them the District 3-6A title, and forced the six hour trip to St. Augustine for the regional quarterfinals. The Yellow Jackets have won nine in a row after dropping their opening game at Baker County (Glen St. Mary) 23-21. First-year coach Brian Braddock has picked up where Joey Wiles left off, bringing St. Augustine another District 4-6A championship after they were runner-up to Nease (Ponte Vedra) in 2015. The winner here will play the winner of the Middleburg-Crestview game next Friday in the 6A regional semifinal round.

6A Regional Quarterfinal – Middleburg (4-5) at Crestview (9-1) – What a turnaround for Middleburg, who was 0-10 a year ago but advanced to the postseason for the first time in 13 years by finishing as the runner-up to St. Augustine in District 4-6A. The last time the Broncos were in the playoffs, 2003, they defeated Palatka for their only playoff win in school history. This is a tough test for Middleburg however, as they will have to travel six hours west to the Panhandle to play a Crestview team that won the District 3-6A. Crestview has outscored opponents 440-211, with their only loss last week in the final game of the regular season to Gulf Breeze.

6A Regional Quarterfinal – Springstead (Spring Hill) (6-2) at Vanguard (Ocala) (8-1) – Vanguard rolled through most of the regular season, winning the District 5-6A title and outscored district rivals Forest (Ocala) and Gainesville by a combined 113-10. But the Knights ran into some trouble at Lake Gibson (Lakeland) last week, dropping their first game 35-14. Vanguard was knocked off in the 6A regional semifinals in 2015 as they lost a shootout at home to Gainesville. The Knights were ranked 2nd in the state in 6A most of the season, and face a Springstead team that had to advance through a district tiebreaker in District 6-6A. Springstead lost to Mitchell (New Port Richey) in the final quarter, but that was enough to advance as the district runner-up. The winner of this game plays the winner of the Forest-Mitchell game next Friday in the 6A regional semifinals.

6A Regional Quarterfinal – Forest (Ocala) (7-1) at Mitchell (New Port Richey) (7-2) – Forest is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2011, advancing as the runner-up in District 5-6A. The Wildcats knocked off Gainesville 38-35 at Citizens Field to clinch a playoff spot, but were blown out by city rival Vanguard 57-3 in the district championship game. Mitchell survived an early 33-7 loss at Springstead and beat Sunlake (Land O’Lakes) 27-19 to force a three-way tiebreaker in District 6-6A, which Mitchell won.

6A Regional Quarterfinal – Okeechobee (8-1) at Mainland (Daytona Beach) (9-0) – Mainland is the #1 team in 6A according to the Associated Press, and has been the top team in the Prep Zone Power Poll since the opening week of the regular season. The Bucs have outscored their opponents 444-87, and rolled through Matanzas (Palm Coast) 41-0 to win another District 13-6A title. More good news for Mainland is Central (Miami), who knocked the Bucs out of the playoffs the past three seasons, didn’t advance out of their district this season. Okeechobee’s only loss was 35-0 to Sebastian River, who won the District 14-6A championship. The winner of this game plays the winner of Matanzas at Sebastian River next week in the 6A regional semifinals.

6A Regional Quarterfinal – Matanzas (Palm Coast) (7-2) at Sebastian River (9-1) – Matanzas started season 5-0 before dropping two in a row to Pine Ridge (Deltona) and Mainland, but rallied past Deltona 17-14 to finish as runner-up in District 13-6A. Sebastian River was undefeated before dropping it’s final game of the season last week 28-6 at 8A Vero Beach.

6A State Championship Game Pick: Mainland over Vanguard

5A Regional Quarterfinal – Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) (6-3) at Ribault (Jacksonville) (5-3) – Bishop Kenny is in the playoffs for a school-record 8th straight season, advancing as the runner-up to Ponte Vedra in District 4-5A. Crusaders were eliminated by Suwannee (Live Oak) 34-7 in the first round of the 5A playoffs. Ribault started the season with two losses to Norland (Miami) and Mandarin (Jacksonville) and also dropped a district game to Suwannee, but defeated Yulee 14-7 to force a three-way tiebreaker. Trojans defeated Yulee and Suwannee to win district championship, then knocked off rival Raines (Jacksonville) last week 28-12. Ribault knocked off Ponte Vedra on the road in first round a year ago before being eliminated in regional semifinals with overtime loss at Suwannee. Winner of this game plays winner of Yulee-Ponte Vedra game next week in regional semifinals.

5A Regional Quarterfinal – Yulee (6-2) at Ponte Vedra (9-0) – Ponte Vedra had some close calls, 28-21 at Bishop Kenny, 48-45 at Bartram Trail, but made it through the regular season undefeated and won District 4-5A. Yulee started off the season with a win at Suwannee in District 3-5A play, but then dropped their final game in district play at Ribault. Hornets dropped first quarter of tiebreaker to Ribault, but rallied to beat Suwannee in overtime of final quarter to clinch runner-up spot. Ponte Vedra dropped regional quarterfinal game at home to Ribault a year ago.

5A Regional Quarterfinal – Belleview (6-2) at Baker County (Glen St. Mary) (8-1) – John Brantley has led Belleview to playoffs for first time in ten years in his first season, with Rattlers finishing as runner-up to North Marion (Citra) in District 6-5A. Belleview lost 19-7 at 4A playoff team Dunnellon and 42-17 at North Marion to finish as district runner-up. Baker County is one of the top teams in the state in 5A in coach Jamie Rodgers first season. Wildcats have outscored opponents 335-135 and easily won District 5-5A championship before dropping it’s first game of the season at Madison County last week 26-21. Winner of this game plays Clay-North Marion winner next week.

5A Regional Quarterfinal – Clay (Green Cove Springs) (7-3) at North Marion (Citra) (4-4) – This is a rematch of a classic 65-58 second round playoff game from last season, won by Clay in Green Cove Springs. Clay advanced to the state semifinal in 2015 before being knocked out by the eventual 5A state runner-up Wakulla (Crawfordville). This season Blue Devils finished as runner-up in District 5-5A to Baker County, sending on the road for the playoffs. North Marion has struggled most of the season, but defeated Eastside (Gainesville) and Belleview to win another District 6-5A title. This is the 16th consecutive playoff appearance for the Colts. Most of those playoff appearances took place under former coach Craig Damon, but North Marion has continued it’s playoff run under first-year coach Willie Offord. Offord is Colts fourth head coach in four years.

5A Regional Quarterfinal – Zephyrhills (8-2) at Nature Coast (Brooksville) (9-0) – Nature Coast has cruised to another undefeated season despite losing their top running back, Deshawn Smith, from a year ago. Sharks captured another District 7-5A title, finishing atop a 7 team district. Nature Coast, behind Smith’s 3,715 yards rushing, advanced to the 5A regional final last year, being eliminated at Clay 40-28. Zephyrhills finished as the District 8-5A runner-up to River Ridge (New Port Richey). The winner of this game plays Crystal River- River Ridge winner in next week’s 5A regional semifinals.

5A Regional Quarterfinal – Crystal River (6-3) at River Ridge (New Port Richey) (7-2) – Despite having three head coaches in three months last winter, Crystal River has advanced to the postseason as the runner-up to Nature Coast in District 7-5A. Pirates have won six of seven after dropping their first two games to Dunnellon and Belleview. That loss was 51-7 to Nature Coast. River Ridge’s only two losses were to 6A teams Mitchell in the opening game and Sunlake in the final game of the regular season last week. River Ridge allowed only 123 points in winning 8 team District 8-5A.

5A Championship Game Pick: American Heritage (Plantation) over Baker County

4A Regional Semifinal – Raines (Jacksonville) (6-2) at Walton (DeFuniak Springs) (3-7) (Thursday, 8:30 PM Eastern) – Raines was 4A state runner-up a year ago, losing to Booker T. Washington (Miami) in state championship game. Raines won first six games, but lost 24-23 at Bolles (Jacksonville) and had to advance as runner-up in District 2-4A. Vikings then dropped 28-12 home game to rival Ribault last Saturday. Walton has three wins, and thos were all district wins over Rutherford (Panama City), Marianna, and East Gadsden (Havana), and that gave the Braves the District 1-4A title. This game was moved to Thursday night due to the Veterans Day holiday. The winner gets the winner of East Gadsden at Bolles game next week in 4A regional finals.

4A Regional Semifinal – East Gadsden (Havana) (5-4) at Bolles (Jacksonville) (9-0) – Bolles finally knocked off Raines in the regular season to clinch another District 2-4A title. Bulldogs were knocked out by Raines in second round of 4A playoffs in 2015, a rare season where Bolles did not at least advance to the state championship game. Bolles has outscored opponents 472-121, with the closest game 24-23 over Raines. East Gadsden made the playoffs as runner-up to Walton in District 1-4A.

4A Regional Semifinal – Dunnellon (8-1) at Bradford (Starke) (7-1) – Dunnellon was top-ranked team in 4A most of 2015 season, but were stunned in 4A region final 15-14 at Santa Fe (Alachua). Tigers lost to South Sumter (Bushnell) 21-15, forcing them to beat Mount Dora to advance to playoffs as runner-up in District 4-4A. Bradford advanced to playoffs as runner-up in District 3-4A a year ago, and were quickly ousted in first round at Dunnellon 35-6. This season Tornadoes rolled through District 3-4A opposition, with only loss coming early in the season at 3A Taylor County (Perry). The winner of this game plays winner of Santa Fe-South Sumter next week in second round of 4A playoffs.

4A Regional Semifinal – Santa Fe (Alachua) (4-5) at South Sumter (Bushnell) (8-1) – Another rematch of first round game from 2015, except scene shifts from Alachua to Bushnell. Santa Fe advanced to 4A state semfinals a year ago, being ousted by Raines. Santa Fe won last year’s meeting 26-0 in the battle of Raiders. Santa Fe struggle a bit in Cliff Harrell’s first season, but finished 3-1 in District 3-4A play to advance to the playoffs as a runner-up. South Sumter said goodbye to longtime coach Inman Sherman after last season, but Ty Lawrence has taken over and not missed a beat as Raiders won District 4-4A championship. South Sumter’s only loss was to defending 5A state champion Bishop Moore (Orlando).

4A State Championship Game Pick: Bolles over Cocoa

Joe Pinkos predictions

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