Two more tickets to the state championship on the line Friday

By Brian Jackson - Digital sports reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Three of our local schools have already punched their ticket to Orlando for next weekend’s state championship games. Two more spots are up for grabs on Friday. In a class 7A semifinal the Lee Generals will travel south to face Tampa Plant. Back here in Green Cove Springs, Clay will face Ponte Vedra in the 5A semifinals.

Prior to early November the Generals hadn't won a playoff game in 20 years. Getting to this point was no small task. Last year Lee went 7-4 and lost in the opening round of the playoffs. Before this season started head coach O.J. Small said he felt his team was capable of making a run.

“They didn’t believe it at first and slowly as the season kept going and week by week they started to see the bigger picture,” said Small. “You could tell their focus and the way they tuned in when the coaches talked to them. We told them each week we have to take things to another level. We have to get better every day, every week and every game. You never know when it’s your last at this point.”

The Ponte Vedra Sharks are a perfect 12-0 this season. It’s the first time in school history they’ve held an unblemished record. Sharks head coach Matt Toblin use to coach at Clay and still has a close relationship with members of their coaching staff.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Toblin. “We’re messing with each other and we tell them we’re installing a wing-T. It’s been good. We’ll email back and forth and do pick’ems on Friday. It’s been really cool to have that many friends on the other side of the ball and one of us going to the state title. It’s awesome, it’s a dream scenario.”

This is the second straight year that Clay has landed in the final four. A year ago they lost at Wakulla, but on Friday night they will host Ponte Vedra.

“This started after we lost last year in the final four,” said Blue Devils head coach Josh Hoekstra. “These guys have been extremely motivated to get back to this point. They’re real motivated after having to go out to Wakulla last year and we didn’t finish. That’s been our big deal this year. We’ve got to finish and play well this week.”

Both games will start at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. We will break down the entire championship bracket during the 10PM news on Friday, Dec. 2. 

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