By Donald Taylor
Well folks, two weeks in the books and I had another stellar week with my picks. As a matter of fact, I went 6-0 (12-1 for the season) and was amazingly accurate with my final score projections. I see a trip to Vegas in my future…or not! All kidding aside, the games played out much as I expected.
GHS took advantage of First Coast not having a game under its belt after two weeks of weather-related cancellations while Newberry, once again, out-muscled a large-school opponent at Panther Stadium.
Now we’re on to week #3 and, once again, there is no lack of intriguing games on the area docket. Here’s a closer look at our Games of the Week across the area.
BIG SCHOOL GAME OF THE WEEK
7A Buchholz (Gainesville) @ 7A #10 Columbia (Lake City)
We have had this early season showdown circled for weeks here at The Prep Zone. Of course, we were not exactly sure what kind of football Buchholz was going to produce in the preseason, but had an idea that they’d be pretty decent on offense. Jackson White, the Bobcats outstanding QB, has led an offense that has outscored opponents 92-13 over the first two weeks of the season. The senior QB was 6 of 9 for 131 yards and 1 TD passing in just a half of play versus Citrus last week. RB Torrey Richardson finished the first half for the Bobcats with 78 yards on 9 carries with 2 TDs. Even more impressive, the Bobcat D held the Citrus Hurricanes to just 24 yards of offense.
The 10th ranked Tigers from Lake City are coming off an impressive 23-14 win over a talented Tallahassee Lincoln football team last Friday. RB Kamario Bell is averaging 133 ypg for the Tigers while Junior QB Davin Schuck is averaging 233 ypg passing. Schuck’s favorite target through the first two games has been WR Dallon Washington. Washington, a Senior, is averaging OVER 50 YARDS PER RECEPTION and is averaging 126 ypg receiving. The Tigers success doesn’t stop with the offense. Through the first two games, the Tiger Defense has 14 sacks…yes that’s correct…14 sacks.
Analysis: Folks, this game has all the makings of an instant classic. As good as these two defenses are, I expect something just short of an arena game to break out in Tiger Stadium Friday night. I sit here wondering if Buchholz is as battle-tested as the Tigers are through two weeks. After all, The Tigers did trounce a GHS team that we all hold in pretty high regard after their big win versus First Coast last week.
In the end, I think a balanced attack by the Tigers and another workman-like effort by their defense will prove too much for the visiting Bobcats. Look for Jackson White to be harassed by the Tigers just enough to slow down a potent Bobcat offense.
Coach T’s Prediction: Columbia 37 Buchholz 28
SMALL SCHOOL GAME OF THE WEEK
1A #8 Newberry @ 1A #5 Union County (Lake Butler)
A year ago, this was a District 7-1A showdown that the Tigers won on the road 27-14. This year, after some realignment in class 1A, the Tigers find themselves atop District 6-1A. Despite this realignment, these two rival teams hold this game in high regard.
The Tigers enter this game having dispatched of Agape Christian 51-0 last week. Tigers’ QB, Ty Cook, has thrown for 491 yards and 6 TDs in the first two weeks without a single interception. The Tigers rushing attack has been by committee, with Senior RB’s Dairon Alexander and Isaiah Johnson getting the bulk of the carries. On Defense, the Tigers are led by Junior Andre Hampton (14 tackles/game) and Senior Khris Wimpy (9 tackles/game).
The Panthers head to Lake Butler having dispatched of large school foes Santa Fe and Eastside in relatively easy fashion. On Offense, the Panthers are jelling and beginning to round themselves into a well-balanced attack led by Seniors Nick Oelrich (QB) and Jason Franklin (RB). Junior Jacquez Jernigan (RB) has proven to be the workhorse on the ground, leading the Panthers in rushing at 84 yards/game. Senior Jaquez Keith has emerged as Oelrich’s go-to receiver.
It is on Defense, however, that the Panthers do their real damage. Junior DT Ja’len Parks (5 tackles/game), Senior Malik Neal (6 tackles/game) and Senior DL Corey Durden (6 tackles/game) anchor one of the areas stoutest defensive lines, regardless of school size. The LBs and DBs are both top-notch units as well, led by Junior Garry Mitchell (MLB) and Senior Monroe Thornton III (S).
Analysis: Union County has won 5 of the last 6 meetings in the series dating back to 2010. During that time, this game has been decided by an average of 12 points, including a 35 point beatdown by the Tigers in 2013 (49-14).
The key to this game will be Newberry’s pass defense. If there is a weak spot early in the season, it would be intermediate-to-deep coverage by the Panthers. The Tigers like to throw the ball and should try and take advantage of the Panthers in this area. The Panthers had 3 sacks and 7 pressures last week against a very mobile QB in Eastside’s KJ Minter.
In the end, I expect Newberry’s front 7 to shut down the run and pressure Ty Cook just enough to force a few bad throws. Newberry, in turn, should find success in the run game and will throw the ball just enough to keep the Tigers guessing.
COACH T’s Prediction: Newberry 27 Union County 21
BEST OF THE REST
1A #2 Port St. Joe @ 1A #4 Trenton
PSJ has had a rough start to their season off-the-field. An outbreak of Viral Meningitis swept through the community and school rendering several players inactive for weeks. However, I expect the defending champs to show up in full force on Friday night, hungry to hush the naysayers who had written them off. Unfortunately for them, they are visiting the Trenton Tigers, who have designs on a return to Orlando this year. If PSJ shows up less than 100%, this game won’t be that close.
Trenton 21 PSJ 20
5A Eastside (Gainesville) @ 4A Santa Fe (Alachua)
Santa Fe hasn’t played since their loss to Newberry two weeks ago. Eastside hasn’t played since….they lost to Newberry last week. The good news for both of these teams is that they’re playing a team that’s not from Newberry. In a battle of mobile QB’s, KJ and the Gang get my vote.
Eastside 27 Santa Fe 13
5A Clay (Green Cover Springs) @ 6A Gainesville
The Blue Devils are coming off a close loss. The Hurricanes are coming off an upset win over First Coast. Be careful ‘Canes….be very, very careful.
GHS 24 Clay County 21
1A Hawthorne @ 1A Bronson
Bronson finds itself in a position it did not expect at this point in the season. Hawthorne is just about where we expected them to be two weeks into the season. Hey Hornets, let’s make it two-in-a-row for that new coach of yours.
H-Town 27 B-Town 12