JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Week 6 of high school football season is in the books. Time to look back in this week's Snaps.
Rodney DuBose has a phrase that reminds him what the process looks like.
"Built, not borrowed."
The best things take work, and sometimes, a lot of it.
DuBose knew that his Westside High football team was better than the records have indicated. But no matter which way you slice it, winning one game in each of the past two seasons was not going to convince anyone that the Wolverines were making progress.
If 2017 and '18 were laying the foundation of a place through sweat equity and not a whole lot of measurable results, then 2019 is when the Wolverines can start putting up the trusses and ordering the drywall. After a 24-20 win at Baker County on Friday night, Westside (5-1) is very much in a position that DuBose has talked about for years.
After years of building, the wins are coming.
"It needed to manifest itself on the field. Even for me as a coach, I had to keep reminding myself that," said DuBose, the Wolverines' seventh-year head coach. "It was time for us to get some wins."
Westside's records since DuBose took over after Terrance Flagler stepped down following the 2012 season were not pretty: 2-8. 6-5. 4-6. 4-4. 1-8. 1-9.
The only season that resulted in a state playoff berth was in 2014, a strong Wolverines team that wound up sneaking in as a district runner-up after surviving Ribault in a three-team district tiebreaker.
The past two seasons were particularly painful, one-win marks in the brutal District 4-5A that included three playoff teams (Bolles, Ponte Vedra and Trinity Christian) in both 2017 and '18. No matter how strong belief in your system is, it's difficult to preach patience and program building in the face of 1-8 and 1-9.
DuBose has talked in both of the past offseasons as Westside being better than those last two years' records expressed. The players were young and learning through a brutal district. There was progress, but still a whole lot of losses.
Those building seasons have finally begun to yield results.
"The kids have just bought in, they're buying into what we believe and what we preach. We don't go after other [schools] players. We don't recruit. We love the kids that are with us like they're our own kids," DuBose said. "It's our job to put them in position to be successful. You hear ‘trust the process.' That's the big cliché. Every individual kid has their own process. Our job as coaches is to catch them in their process and help them build. This is not a one-year process. Our goal is to be built, not borrowed."
The best win in DuBose's tenure was a 38-20 victory over Bishop Kenny on Oct. 10, 2014. That wound up putting Westside in a district shootout with Kenny and Ribault and led to the program's first playoff berth since 2007. I would argue that Friday's 24-20 win over Baker County has the potential to even top that when all is said and done.
Westside went to Baker County's Memorial Stadium, one of the best places you can watch a football game on the First Coast and left with a win that puts it in the driver's seat (along with Parker) in District 3-5A. Who, outside of those on Firestone Road, would have called that back in July?
Players who were on those struggling Westside teams of recent years have grown up and thrived. Among them, junior quarterback DJ Otis, the starter during both of those one-win seasons, has thrown for 11 touchdowns and 951 yards. Receiver Jared Ealey has a team-best 403 yards and seven TDs.
Against Baker County, the Wolverines erased a 13-3 deficit, forced four turnovers to boost its season total to 26 and hung on through a final Wildcats rally attempt. That set the stage for a dizzying last month of the season.
Westside has Week 7 off before a three-game 3-5A slate that will define its year (Bishop Kenny on Oct. 11, White on Oct. 18 and at Parker on Oct. 25).
For DuBose, it's been a long, long time in the making.
The last time that Westside had a start this good was under coach Dennis Clemons in 2002. The Wolverines, then the Forrest Rebels, opened 5-0 before Ribault ended that perfect start. The program still reached the state playoffs that season as a wildcard.
"We have not arrived. Anybody who's been here isn't thinking that," DuBose said. "All that matters is we're 1-0 in the district and we've improved. That's all that matters at this point. We're pleased. We're thankful. We're humble. That's the most important thing."
• District 1-8A is shaping up to be a two-team race — Bartram Trail and Oakleaf.
The Knights' 37-22 win over Sandalwood on Friday night means that they and the Bears have both knocked off the top Duval County contenders in that district. Bartram walloped Mandarin 32-7 on Sept. 13.
If the pattern continues (Oakleaf beats Mandarin on Oct. 11 and Bartram beats Sandalwood on Oct. 25) that should mean it's the Knights and the Bears for the 1-8A title in the Oct. 18 game. Things could change with an upset, but I don't see Mandarin or Sandalwood in the mix. Those teams face off on Oct. 18, with the loser all but eliminated from the district race.
• Best matchups in Week 7: Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas (4-0) at Mandarin (3-2); Flagler Palm Coast (5-0) at St. Augustine (3-2); Bartram Trail (5-0) at Ponte Vedra (5-0), Parker (2-2, 1-0) at Baker County (3-2, 1-1)* and Sandalwood (3-2) at Raines (2-2), 6 p.m.
• A 22-10 run in the predictions in Week 6, and man, did I whiff on a few. Worst of those calls: Hilliard over Wolfson 22-19, the Wolfpack won 40-12. Suwannee over Rickards 28-14 (Rickards won, 40-14). Ribault over Yulee 28-14 (Yulee won, 10-7). And Jackson over Fernandina Beach 31-14 (the Pirates won, 34-28).
• Fleming Island is 5-0 and cleared its biggest hurdle after a 37-21 rout of Creekside on Friday night. The Golden Eagles led 27-0 in that game and took the air out of a Knights team that had the area's top passer (Quinn Sieger) and receiver (Jack Goodrich) coming in.
The Golden Eagles, barring a stunner, are going to finish the regular season unbeaten. With both Creekside and Fletcher out of the way, District 2-7A seems all but wrapped up, barring an upset by either Gainesville Buchholz, First Coast or winless Atlantic Coast.
• Trinity Christian running back Kyjuan Herndon became the first area player to crack the 1,000-yard rushing mark this season. Herndon rushed for 220 yards on eight carries (yes, eight carries!) in a 42-7 win over Pahokee. Herndon has 1,132 rushing yards and 12 TDs on 122 carries.
• Episcopal with a 26-21 comeback winner over Crescent City on a 27-yard TD pass from Tucker Tomberlin to Corey Scott with 4 seconds to play. I was walking up in this one at the end of the first half and the Eagles trailed 7-6 with 2:45 to play. By the time I got on the field at halftime, the Raiders had tacked on two TDs in that span and led 21-6 at the break.
Episcopal scored its final 20 points all in the fourth quarter.
Week 6 scoreboard
- Baldwin 42, Stanton 6
- Bolles 47, Palatka 6
- Bronson 52, St. Johns Country Day 6
- Christ's Church 44, Bishop Snyder 7
- Columbia 41, Gainesville 14
- Eagle's View at North Florida Educational, night
- Episcopal 26, Crescent City 21
- Fernandina Beach 34, Jackson 28
- Fletcher 45, Atlantic Coast 17
- Flagler Palm Coast 38, Orange City University 13
- Fleming Island 37, Creekside 21
- Gainesville Buchholz 33, First Coast 20
- Gainesville Eastside 42, Clay 20
- Interlachen 28, Bell 20
- Joshua Christian 38, Merritt Island Christian 0
- Keystone Heights 21, St. Joseph 0
- Mandarin 42, Nease 3
- Lee 38, Middleburg 6
- Oakleaf 37, Sandalwood 22
- Orange Park 13, Ridgeview 7
- Ponte Vedra 35, Matanzas 0
- Providence 40, Cedar Creek Christian 0
- St. Augustine 56, Englewood 7
- Tallahassee Rickards 40, Suwannee 14
- Taylor County 42, Fort White 27
- Trinity Christian 42, Pahokee 7
- Union County 28, Hamilton County 6
- University Christian 8, Bradford 7
- Westside 24, Baker County 20
- White 44, Bishop Kenny 28
- Wolfson 40, Hilliard 12
- Yulee 10, Ribault 7