JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Four area high school football teams will compete for a state championship in Orlando this week. The first matchup, featuring Raines High School, kicks off Thursday night.
Raines, University Christian, Bartram Trail and Baker County high schools are set to make their run for a state title.
The cold and rain Thursday didn’t dampen the spirits of the hundreds of fans who showed up to send the Vikings off to Orlando. They boarded their bus after walking through a tunnel of dancers, cheerleaders and the school drumline.
“It went by so fast. It’s like a dream,” Raines senior cornerback and running back Raynell Killian said. “We just came together as a team. They told us all summer we had to come together in order for us to win, so we saw the opportunity of a lifetime, so we just ran with it.”
Raines (12-1) enters the 4A state title game riding a 12-game winning streak. The Vikings' only blemish this year came in their season opener when they lost to Lee 20-16. They are led by senior quarterback Ivory Durham and a tough defense.
“I just want to thank God. It’s a blessing to be here, and I love everybody,” Durham said.
Raines is looking to become the first Duval County public school to win a state championship since 1997. Its matchup against Cocoa kicks off Thursday at 7 p.m.
“It would mean a lot,” Killian said. “We’re bringing back a lot to the community. We feel like we deserve it. We've been working hard for it.”
University Christian (2A)
University Christian fans have plenty to be excited about, as the private school seeks its third-straight state title in a rematch of last year’s 2A state championship.
“We work so hard. Every one of the players deserves that. Good attitude, you just have to come in with the work ethic and be ready to play,” University Christian senior wide receiver Timothy Ciresi said.
The Christians take on a Tampa Champagnat Catholic team that has only allowed 88 points all season long. Kickoff is scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m.
Baker County (5A)
In Baker County, high school football fans are experiencing a first.
Baker County will play in its first 5A state title game in school history, and the team was sent off in style Thursday with students leaving on a bus escorted by sheriff's office patrol cars.
The Wildcats are scheduled to take on a Plantation American Heritage team that won the 5A state championship in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The Patriots are undefeated in 2017 and are currently ranked No. 7 in the nation by USA Today. Kickoff starts Friday at 3 p.m.
Bartram Trail (7A)
Bartram Trail High School fans are similarly excited. The Bears, who don't leave for Orlando until Saturday morning, are vying for their first 7A state title in the program’s history against a 14-1 Venice High School team. Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday at 3 p.m.
All games are played at the Camping World Stadium in Orlando.